Federal File: On the bus; Civil-rights squabble

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Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley last week joined the C-SPAN cable network for a conversation with 30 high school students that coincided with the debut of the public-affairs channel's school bus.

During the hourlong discussion with students from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., Mr. Riley responded to a variety of concerns, including safety at sporting events, the role of mathematics and science in the curriculum, and the cost of higher education.

Mr. Riley touted the Clinton Administration's school-reform strategy, embodied in the proposed "goals 2000: educate America act.'' He also explained the changes to the federal student-aid program that the Administration pushed through Congress and said school-finance equalization is a local issue.

The Secretary's visit to the school came on the day the network launched its promotional bus tour.

Its 45-foot, custom-made motor coach will visit more than 80 communities over the next eight months in an effort to make teachers and students aware of the network's potential as a teaching and learning resource.

C-SPAN presents coverage of Congress and other official federal activities, as well as a variety of public-policy forums put on by nongovernmental groups.

The school bus is equipped with production facilities and an interactive media center. It will be used to demonstrate how teachers can incorporate C-SPAN programming into their lesson plans and to produce programming during the nationwide tour.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights last month failed to confirm President Clinton's choices for its leadership.

Mr. Clinton nominated Mary Frances Berry, a University of Pennsylvania history professor and a commissioner since 1980, as chairwoman and Cruz Reynoso, a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, as vice chairman.

Ms. Berry served as an assistant secretary of education in the Carter Administration, before the creation of a separate Education Department.

A majority of the eight-member civil-rights panel must approve leadership nominations, but only four commissioners voted last month to approve the nominees. The four other commissioners abstained.

News reports said the four abstainers feared that Ms. Berry's ties to members of Congress--specifically Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., the chairman of a subcommittee that oversees the commission--were too close, and that that might threaten the panel's independence.

The White House is reviewing the situation, a commission spokeswoman said.--M.P.

Vol. 13, Issue 10

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