Federal File: He Stands Corrected

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Speaking to his "friends and professional colleagues" at a forum on the teaching profession here last week, Secretary of Education William J. Bennett tried to "set the record straight ... on my now famous, or infamous, remark about stereo divestiture."

But in doing so, he revised the record, misquoting himself.

According to the transcript of his press conference last month, Mr. Bennett said of the consequences of proposed cuts in the postsecondary-aid program: "For those families which are doing everything they can to provide support for one child going to college, with perhaps two or three others, they are going to have to tighten the belt even further. And there will be, perhaps, even greater sacrifices required on the part of the student in question."

"In other places, in other circumstances, it may require less sacrifice. It may require, for some students, divestiture of certain sorts--stereo divestiture, automobile divestiture, three-weeks-at-the-beach divestiture. ..."

In "correcting the record" last week, however, Mr. Bennett changed one sentence to, "In other places, in very fortunate circumstances, it may require less sacrifice."

He had also said at the press conference, "and no one can deny that setting this limit will have tough consequences for some people, but when you're setting up a budget, when you're setting up an administrative proposal, you have to look at the larger picture."

The sentence was changed to: "No one can deny that setting this limit will have some consequences for some people. ..."

After making his comments at the American Enterprise Institute forum last Tuesday, Mr. Bennett suggested that reporters "take note."

But subsequently, a spokesman for Bennett admitted that the "clarifying" remarks were misstatements and said that the Secretary stood by the original transcript.

Not Just Tough Talk

In light of recent budget decisions, skeptics may interpret as a "throw-away line" President Reagan's renewed call last month for good old-fashioned discipline in the schools.

For instance, the doubters may point out that the President's fiscal 1986 budget would eliminate the Justice Department's $80.7-million juvenile-justice program. (The Administration explained that the "major thrusts" of the program "have been achieved to the extent practicable.")

But Gary L. Bauer, a deputy undersecretary of education and a key figure in the Administration's school-discipline program last year, vowed earlier this month that the Administration will certainly "move ahead" in the next few weeks on the discipline issue. When the President announces an initiative, it should not be taken lightly, Mr. Bauer said, but he added that no concrete steps had yet been taken and none were being considered.

President Reagan promised a new discipline initiative in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Schools last month.--cc & jh

Vol. 04, Issue 26

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