Administration Considers New E.D. Proposal

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Washington--Reagan Administration officials, whose 1981 proposal to reduce the Cabinet-level Education Department to a small foundation was rebuffed by the Congress, have designed a new proposal for reorganizing the department, sources said last week.

An outline of the new plan, which "is ready to be trial-tested on Capitol Hill," has been sent to Edwin Meese 3d, the Presidential counselor, the sources said. Mr. Meese had been scheduled to meet with Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell to discuss the plan last Wednesday, but the meeting was inexplicably cancelled, the sources said.

The new design was sent to the White House as President Reagan, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference here late last month, promised a "renewal of his commitment to abolish the Education Department," according to an Administration source.

According to information available last week, the latest version of the reorganization plan--which must be approved by a committee of Cabinet members before it reaches the President--would be structured as an "administrative consortium," and it would include only the major education programs now conducted by the department, along with statistics-gathering and research functions.

Like the "foundation" plan promoted by Administration officials during the past two years, the new proposal would require abolishing several current programs and transferring some programs to other fed-eral agencies, the sources said. Civil-rights functions currently provided by the department would be transferred to the Justice Department, they said.

Mr. Meese was also provided with the Secretary's three previous "options" for the department, including dispersing all education programs to other agencies, merging the department with another Cabinet-level agency, and the original foundation plan, the sources said. A fourth option, "maintaining the status quo," was reportedly dropped from the options list.

One Administration source, asked why the 98th Congress would look more favorably on the reorganization plan than did its predecessor, characterized the new approach as "more credible in a political sense."

Vol. 02, Issue 23

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