Jones Opposed for Higher Post in E.D.
Washington--The post of undersecretary of the Education Department, which the Reagan Administration is expected to fill soon, has become the focus of a political power struggle between some of the department's conservative appointees and Gary L. Jones, the man Administration sources say is scheduled to be appointed to the post.
Mr. Jones, who currently serves as deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, has been expected by knowledgeable observers to be named second-in-command of the department ever since the previous undersecretary, William C. Clohan Jr., was forced to resign last month.
The resignation of Mr. Clohan, a moderate Republican, had reportedly been sought by political conservatives--both within and outside of the Administration--who believed he was not committed ideologically to the policies of President Reagan. Since Mr. Clohan's departure, some conservatives have attempted to block the appointment of Mr. Jones on the same grounds.
Opposition to Mr. Jones's appointment was voiced in editorials this month in two publications that customarily take politically conservative positions on public-policy issues. Human Events, a weekly newspaper, and The National Review, a monthly magazine, published articles that questioned the views of Mr. Jones on the issue of tuition tax credits--a program strongly supported by President Reagan.
The National Review said that Mr. Jones, a former school-board member in the Washington suburb of Fairfax County, Va., "was once heard in public" to oppose tuition tax credits.
Human Events went further, quoting an unnamed source who attended a meeting of the National Federation of Urban and Suburban School Districts in February 1981. At that meeting, "Jones had argued very strongly against tuition tax credits," the newspaper quoted the source as saying.
"Sources in and out of the depart-ment who know Jones also report that, at least in the past, Jones has been critical of tuition tax credits because he believes they would weaken the public-school system," the article continued.
Although the newspaper did not mention names, other Administration officials identified the principal source of the allegations as Lawrence Uzzell, a conservative political activist who is currently a special assistant at the National Institute of Education (nie).
Mr. Uzzell, who, as an aide to Republican Senator John P. East of North Carolina, was one of the speakers at the meeting last year, was said by Administration sources to have voiced his preference for a "more conservative" undersecretary than Mr. Jones.
The sources said Mr. Uzzell was lobbying Administration officials to appoint Edward A. Curran, the director of the nie, or Daniel Oliver, the department's general counsel, to the post.
Mr. Curran is a former headmaster of the National Cathedral School, a private college-preparatory school here. Mr. Oliver is a former executive editor of The National Review.
None of these officials was available for comment last week.
Although Mr. Jones has also declined to comment, Human Events said he claims "that he has never, at any time in the past, been opposed to tuition tax credits and has no idea how such allegations could have been made against him."
The allegations against Mr. Jones were also denied by Linton Deck, the superintendent of the Fairfax County public schools, who attended the meeting last year. Mr. Deck, in a letter to Human Events, said that he had "never heard [Mr. Jones] speak against tuition tax credits."
Lobbyists in the education community here said they viewed the power struggle with irony because Mr. Jones has been the Administration's principal spokesman--in a White House press briefing, in television appearances, and in the Congress--for the President's recently announced tuition tax-credit proposal.
One Education Department source claimed that, in fact, Mr. Jones was the department's representative on a White House task force that designed the proposal, and that Mr. Jones is currently drafting the bill that the Administration is planning to submit to the Congress in the next few weeks.
Other sources note that the deputy undersecretary has been the Administration's principal defender of its efforts to reduce funds for loans for college students.
"If he's not conservative enough, I'm scared," said Allan S. Cohen, a lobbyist for the state of Illinois.
Another lobbyist, August W. Steinhilber of the National School Boards Association, said he thought the Administration might welcome conservative opposition to Mr. Jones, as a way of diluting opposition to his appointment from liberals in the education community.
Other observers pronounced the matter a personal feud among conservatives, which they claimed has produced a "more conservative than thou'' attitude.
The National Review editorial objected to Mr. Jones because he "is not a movement conservative. ... He is not likely to get out of bed in the morning thinking, 'How can I reduce the size of government today?'"
The Human Events article also criticized Mr. Jones's secretary, identifying her as a "Carterite political appointee."
Administration sources, however, said the personnel records of the secretary indicate that she has worked in the past for the Republican National Committee, the Nixon White House, the conservative American Security Council, and the Young Americans for Freedom youth group.