Unsolicited Advice: Transition's Abundant Fare

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Washington--Unsolicited advice for President-elect George Bush and his aides on how to run the country has become the hottest cottage industry in Washington these days.

Think tanks, education groups, and trade associations are churning out a seemingly endless series of white papers, policy seminars, and press releases, all in an effort to influence the policymaking of President-elect George Bush and the new Congress.

"You're going to see most groups make an all-out effort early on in a new Congress and Administration to build relationships and influence policy," said Michael D. Edwards, director of Congressional relations for the National Education Association.

Not only are lobbyists and policy experts attempting to bend official ears about the direction the country should be taking, they are also--at least in the case of those with reasonably close ties to the Republican Party--trying to find jobs for themselves and their friends.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank on Capitol Hill, has reportedly delivered more than 2,000 resumes of potential officeholders to Mr. Bush's transition staff.

As they set about writing prescriptions for everything from the Women, Infants, and Children feeding program to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the groups are seeking to duplicate the success of the Heritage Foundation, which virtually invented the transition report as a valuable tool for gaining clout.

In 1980, the organization issued an enormous tome called Mandate for Leadership, which offered a comprehensive set of policy proposals for the Reagan Administration's first term.

Before that time, the think tank founded by Joseph Coors, the Colorado brewery magnate, had not generally been considered to be a major player in the Washington policy game.

Within weeks of its release, the 1,100-page report had become a Washington best-seller, and the group had established itself as a leading voice for the conservative tide that had swept Mr. Reagan into office.

The United Press International called the report "a blueprint for grabbing the government by its frayed New Deal lapels and shaking out 48 years of liberal policies."

A second Mandate volume was published after the 1984 election. And this week, the foundation was to release Mandate for Leadership III, a 953-page work with 37 chapters written by experts in each area of government.

The education chapter in Mandate III is written by C. Ronald Kimberling, former assistant secretary for postsecondary education in the Reagan Administration.

While expressing regret over the continued existence of the Education Department, Mr. Kimberling advises the new President to accept it as a fact of life, and to concentrate on having the education secretary focus public attention on solutions to the problems of the schools.

Above all, Mr. Kimberling argues, the President should try to prevent any further upward drift in decisionmaking authority over education.

A "major cause of education's problems lies in the shift of financing from local to state control," he argues, adding that, "America cannot afford a similar shift of power from the state to the federal level."

"The new President should seek immediately to make states responsible for all aspects of education," he continues.

To achieve that goal, Mr. Kimberling advocates removing all fed8eral oversight responsibility for funds provided to the states.

He also urges the next President to promote vouchers, tuition tax credits, and open-enrollment plans.

Mr. Kimberling also has some advice for Mr. Bush on the tactical mistakes he thinks were made by the Reagan Administration in presenting policy proposals to the Congress. By laying out ideas for change in educational programs as part of its annual budget, he observes, Reagan Administration officials "made every reform seem like a rationalization for cutting the program's budget."

Instead, Mr. Kimberling argues, department officials should strive to separate legislative proposals from battles over the budget.

He also suggests that federal vocational-education programs be "streamlined," and that the Education Department's office for civil rights be transferred to the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, two former Presidents and a group of business and labor leaders are voicing a sharply different approach to federal support for education.

Their reports, which focus on the need to cut spending and increase taxes to bring down the deficit, both single out education programs for the disadvantaged as one of the few areas meriting additional federal funding.

A bipartisan "American Agenda" panel chaired by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford argues that aid for "children at risk'' should receive an additional $2 billion each year until all eligible children are served.

"We recommend that [Mr. Bush] set a goal of full federal funding for Head Start, compensatory education, prenatal care, immunization and preventive health-care programs for all eligible disadvantaged children within eight years," Mr. Ford and Mr. Carter write in their report.

A report released last week by the Council on Competitiveness, an organization of industry, labor, and higher-education executives, also gives a high priority to spending for Head Start and Chapter 1.

In addition, the council backs student-aid programs and emphasizes the importance of research and science-education programs.

Key education groups have adopted a variety of strategies for getting their points across.

The American Coucil on Education, for example, issued its "Memorandum to the 41st President of the United States" last spring. The 50-page report lays out a broad agenda followed by some specific suggestions.

It asks the new Administration to support international studies and research, programs to address the teacher shortage, and grant assistance for needy students.

The American Association of School Administrators, on the other hand, simply released a press statement after the election contending that, "The time has come to declare a national emergency on behalf of our nation's children and youth." It urges Mr. Bush to speak out on the ''special needs of children and their schools in urban and rural areas."

For the National Education Association, the key point came during the campaign, as it decided which Presidential candidate to endorse. That process "elicits information from candidates, but also educates them to our views and priorities," said Mr. Edwards.

Since the loss of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts, the union's Presidential choice, its leaders have been using "some direct and some indirect methods to get our message across," according to Mr. Edwards.

Mary Hatwood Futrell, the nea president, has used her newspaper column as a forum for suggestions for the next Administration. And the organization has issued press re4leases that spell out aspirations for the next four years.

At the same time, many of the union leaders are meeting directly with new members of the Congress, Mr. Edwards said, as well as "anyone we can meet" on the Bush transition team.

"The time to influence is at the beginning, not at the end," he said.

Vol. 08, Issue 14

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