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Going on the offensive

Just months after the end of a campaign in which Republicans were taken to task for backing cuts in education funding, five GOP moderates are trying to make sure that doesn't happen again.

They've formed the Republican Education Caucus to promote "a balanced approach" to federal education policy that "includes adequate levels of funding as well as innovative educational reforms," Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, one of the caucus' founders, said in announcing the group's formation last month. ("Paring Federal Bureaucracy Key GOP Goal For Schools, Rep. Gingrich Tells Congress," March 26, 1997.)

The message is a contrast to two years ago, when the newly minted gop majority in the House put funding for the Department of Education at the top of its hit list. In 1995, the House passed a bill to slash education funding by almost 20 percent. But conservatives later joined moderates' efforts to protect school programs from cuts last year and boost them this year.

Mr. Leach and two other caucus founders--Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin and Nancy L. Johnson of Connecticut--voted for those cuts in 1995.

In the heat of the 1996 campaign season, Mr. Leach said his party had blundered in voting for those cuts. Republicans later endorsed school funding increases larger than even President Clinton proposed. ("Taking Stock of Clinton's Spending Record," Oct. 2, 1996.)

That didn't stop Democrats, with the help of teachers' and other labor unions, from trumpeting the proposed cuts in ads run against GOP candidates throughout the campaign.

Seven House members have responded to Mr. Leach's letter inviting Republicans to join the caucus, his spokeswoman said.

Standing pat

The House member who has the most say in federal education funding is planning to stay put.

John Edward Porter, R-Ill., has decided not to run for the Senate next year, choosing to dedicate his time to being the chairman of the subcommittee that appropriates money for the Department of Education.

"A Senate race would require me to spend almost all of my time fund raising and campaigning and would leave virtually no time for any meaningful work on this key panel," Rep. Porter said last week in announcing that he would run for re-election to his job representing Chicago's northern suburbs.

He threw his support behind Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois in the GOP primary to decide who will face Democratic Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, who is seeking re-election.

--DAVID J. HOFF [email protected]

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