Federal File: Getting around; On the line; Panel advisory

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The Clinton Administration plans to add explicit mention of arts and foreign-language education to the national education goals, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley disclosed last week.

He said those subjects would be included among the areas listed in the goal calling for students to "demonstrate competency'' in certain subjects by 2000. Members of the arts community have complained about what they viewed as their exclusion from the goals.

Mr. Riley made the announcement in remarks to two education groups, as he continued to make the rounds of education-related gatherings in Washington. He addressed a legislative conference of the Council of the Great City Schools, a meeting of arts educators, and an awards dinner sponsored by the Council for American Private Education in honor of the Brown University educator Theodore R. Sizer.

The Secretary also indicated during his appearances that Ramon Cortines, the former San Francisco superintendent of schools, will be named assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs, as has been widely rumored. Mr. Riley introduced Mr. Cortines to the groups, saying explicitly at one meeting that the former school chief would be in charge of "building partnerships with other levels of government.''

Mr. Riley has been received warmly at such appearances--even by the private school advocates gathered last week for the CAPE dinner, who may have reason for concern about an Administration that opposes private school vouchers.

"Please do not confuse this issue with our support for children receiving a quality education regardless of the school they may attend,'' Mr. Riley told the CAPE members.

President Clinton himself made an unscheduled appearance this month at a prominent group's legislative conference, reinforcing the widespread assumption that the group in question, the Children's Defense Fund, will have exceptional influence in the his Administration.

Mr. Clinton joked that he had "savaged the ranks of the C.D.F. board,'' which had been chaired by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then by Donna E. Shalala, who resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The President touted his proposed increases in such programs as Head Start, child immunizations, and the Women, Infants, and Children program--all of which are longtime C.D.F. priorities.

He also said he had asked Ms. Shalala to draft an initiative combining welfare and "family-preservation services,'' mentioning a proposal by the U.S. Commission on Children to essentially replace welfare with a guarantee that the government will make up for unpaid child support.

When Mr. Clinton announced that Vice President Gore would lead an effort to root out government waste, and proffered a list of toll-free numbers citizens could use to nominate examples, the phones began ringing in many agencies, including the Education Department.

The fraud hot lines, operated by the agencies' inspectors general, were set up during the Bush Administration. But Mr. Clinton's announcement suddenly made them a popular channel for citizen complaints.

Employees who answered the E.D. line said investigators and analysts had been ordered to help field the calls, which they said have focused primarily on student-aid programs.

"Everybody has a student-loan horror story,'' one worker said.

However, he said, other calls have been "more eccentric.''

"There was one guy who was mad because he felt the school board spent too much money on band uniforms,'' the operator said.

The department's number is (800) 647-8733.

As part of his effort to reduce the cost of government, Mr. Clinton has ordered agencies to eliminate advisory panels not established by law.

The move is unlikely to save much money at the Education Department, however, although it boasts 21 advisory panels, ranging from the National Advisory Committee on Accreditation and Institutional Eligibility to the National Education Commission on Time and Learning. All but four were created by Congress and cannot be abolished without legislation.

One of those four, the Advisory Committee on Testing in Chapter 1, has a finite lifespan, as do three of the Congressionally mandated panels.

The President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans was created by President Bush's executive order after intense lobbying from Hispanic groups, and abolishing it would incur their wrath.

The other non-statutory panels are the Exchange Visitor Waiver Review Board, which handles applications for foreign educational exchanges, and the Commission on Presidential Scholars. That panel selects adults from various fields who come to Washington to study the workings of the government. It is a White House program, although the panel's office is in the department.--J.M.

Vol. 12, Issue 26

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