Ferderal File: Deputy Kearns; Of bureaucrats and kudos

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A rumor buzzing through Washington education circles holds that David T. Kearns, chairman and former chief executive of the Xerox Corporation, is to be named deputy secretary of education once Lamar Alexander is confirmed as Secretary.

Morton Kondracke, a senior editor of The New Republic, even made that prediction on the McLaughlin Group television show.

Several Bush Administration sources said last week that they had heard the rumor, and some said they believed it, but none could confirm it.

One associate of Mr. Kearns said the White House is interested in tapping him for some high-ranking education post.

In an interview last week, Mr. Alexander neither confirmed nor denied the rumor.

"It would be extraordinarily presumptuous to talk about appointing people to positions before I am confirmed," he said.

He did confirm that Mr. Kearns was advising him on the transition in the department.

Mr. Kearns, who was unavailable for comment, is one of the most prominent of the business executives who have taken a strong interest in education in the past few years.

He speaks often on education and competitiveness, sits on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the President's Education Advisory Committee, and was mentioned as a candidate for the Secretary's post.

When a 6th-grade class at Holly Heights School in Millville, N.J., launched a citywide "Red, White, and Blue Day" to urge patriotic citizens to wear the national colors on Jan. 14, the school district's public-relations director decided to call the White House.

Bill Fenton said he was transferred to the office of intergovernmental affairs, where an intern said he would try to obtain a letter from the President praising the students. To Mr. Fenton's delight, the letter was faxed that afternoon.

Since their idea was such a hit, the Holly Heights children decided to call for a national "Red, White, and Blue Day" on March 1, and Mr. Fenton again sought Presidential backing.

This time, a worker in the public-liaison office told him that this kind of thing takes time, and could not be done by March 1. Furthermore, the official said, the original request went to the wrong office and was fulfilled without the appropriate bureaucratic approvals.

The intern, Mr. Fenton said, "doesn't work in that office any more.''

As of last week, Mr. Fenton was still waiting for a response to his latest request.--jm

Vol. 10, Issue 25

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