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Friends of Bill

Two recruits from the National Education Association are getting ready to settle into the Clinton administration.

Keith B. Geiger, the union's president from 1989 until last year, is close to being named the head of academic affairs at the U.S. Information Agency, a spokeswoman for the agency said last week. The appointment is not final, but "we expect it soon," the spokeswoman said.

He will oversee the agency's education programs abroad.

Mr. Geiger built his career around activism in the 2.2 million-member union, winning elected offices such as national vice president and state president in his home state of Michigan. After leaving the NEA's top job Sept. 1, he worked for the union's Ohio affiliate organizing teachers in the Clinton re-election campaign and served as acting executive director for the NEA's Louisiana chapter.

President Clinton also has announced the appointment of one of the NEA's top political operatives to his staff.

Mickey Ibarra, who ran the union's political-action committee until recently, will be the director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House.

The former teacher will serve as the main White House contact for governors, mayors, and other local officials.

"His understanding and appreciation of the important role of local and state officials will serve the nation well," Mr. Clinton said in announcing the appointment May 16. Mr. Ibarra will start his new position soon, a White House spokeswoman said.

Mr. Ibarra took a leave of absence from his NEA job last fall to work as the volunteer coordinator for Mr. Clinton's re-election campaign. He later managed the NEA's international-relations department.

Tribute to a vouchers guru

Milton Friedman, the intellectual guru behind the school voucher movement, last week received a conservative foundation's "Lifetime Achievement Award."

The John Templeton Foundation, based in Wilmington, Del., gave the first-time award to the free market economist for his "intellectual journey that is also a courageous and persistent search for truth."

The Nobel laureate first argued for applying his economic philosophy to government-run schools in 1955.

Since then, vouchers have been a rallying cry for conservatives, who argue that all schools would improve if they needed to compete for enrollment.

--DAVID J. HOFF [email protected]

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