Plan For Federal Education Foundation Appears Shelved for Now
Washington--The proposal by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell to reduce the Cabinet-level Education Department to a foundation may not even be introduced in the Congress this year, Administration sources said last week.
The plan to create an $8.8-billion "Foundation for Education Assistance" was included in the President's budget proposal for the fiscal year 1983, but sources said the plan was meeting such strong opposition on Capitol Hill that it is being characterized as a "dead issue" by White House advisers.
The chairmen of the House Government Operations Committee and the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which have jurisdiction over such matters, both have refused to support the foundation proposal.
And even proponents of the foundation plan, such as Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Representative John M. Ashbrook, Republican of Ohio, are unwilling to sponsor the proposal in an election year, according to Congressional aides.
Secretary Bell, who has been meeting informally with members of Congress for several months in an effort to gain support for the proposal, continues to lobby Republican legislators, even though aides to the Secretary characterize reaction as "largely negative."
"He's been told [by White House officials] that he has to get more support for it, then they might reconsi-der. But the Administration probably won't send it up this year," a high-ranking Education Department official said.
One Administration source said some of Mr. Bell's "friends in the education community" are pressuring the Secretary to resign because of their unhappiness with such initiatives as tuition tax credits. But the source said Mr. Bell is demonstrating "impressive, consistent loyalty to the Administration" and is un-likely to leave his post.
Mr. Bell's resignation was also called for recently by Richard A. Viguerie, the publisher of Conservative Digest.
"Secretary Bell has failed to stop the flow of federal dollars to radical groups. He has failed to begin the dismantling of his department. He has refused to recommend the end to federal education controls mandated by the President.
"He is fighting to preserve his department under a new name. President Reagan should replace him quickly," Mr. Viguerie wrote in an editorial in the magazine's April issue.
But a department official, who characterized himself as an "establishment conservative," said Mr. Viguerie's opinion did not represent that of the majority of political conservatives. Mr. Viguerie was merely "shooting from the hip," the official said.
"There's more conservative support right now [for the Secretary's foundation proposal] than is apparent," the official said.
"From the conservative point of view, if there were a foundation or nothing, they'd vote for it. But they wouldn't wage a battle for it."
Mr. Bell was unavailable for comment last week.