Making Education Policy in Washington
Former education secretary and presidential candidate Lamar Alexander shows little regard for consistency or accuracy in his opinion essay, "Where Bold Education Reform Is Found" (Oct. 17).
While he derides the increased funding President Clinton has obtained for improving education, Mr. Alexander fails to mention that when he served as secretary of education, he - apparently reluctantly - urged Congress to increase federal spending on education. He is dismissive of President Clinton's proposal for voluntary national tests in the fourth grade for reading and in the eighth grade for mathematics, yet fails to tell readers that as secretary of education he proposed not two, but 15 national tests - in mathematics, science, English, history, and geography, for grades 4, 8, and 12.
"The [department's] meetings raise questions relating to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which governs how a federal department can regularly seek advice from outside parties," the article says. But the author should know that FACA applies only to a group that has, in large measure, an organized structure, a fixed membership, and a purpose of specifically advising government officials.
Contrary to what the author says, the Department of Education's research efforts are unstructured, informal, and are not designed to obtain advice on specific issues of government policy. They are informational forums to provide updates on departmental initiatives, disseminate information about educational programs, and exchange comments on matters of public concern. To date, more than 230 people, representing a rich diversity of viewpoints, have expressed interest in these open forums. No one has ever been turned away.
Finally, the article conveniently ignores the strong support the Clinton administration has provided for expanding public school choice and charter schools. But, unlike Mr. Alexander, we oppose siphoning off public tax dollars for private school vouchers. As Secretary of Education Richard Riley has said, vouchers would undermine the longstanding American commitment to the common school. They would make private schools less private and less independent, and parochial schools less parochial.
US Department of Education
'Paper terrorism' exposes bad laws
"New Militia Tactic: 'Paper Terrorism'" (Oct. 15) discusses "common law courts" and false property claims against government officials. If it is true that clearly false and malicious liens against property can require years to clean up, then the "paper terrorists" are doing us a favor in bringing this to light. Such archaic laws and procedures can only be regarded as a full-employment policy for lawyers and judges. It is much like the problem an individual encounters if his credit rating is falsely attacked, except that there are laws to help him fix it (as slow as they are). Good for the states that are trying to fix this one.
Nuclear technology deserves access
Regarding the opinion page article "Chinese Nuclear Exports: No Easy Ride" (Oct. 9): The Chinese have improved their proliferation record and deserve access to our technology. Indeed, the Chinese say their regulations now require nuclear technology recipient facilities to be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, as they are in the United States. The reality is that the Chinese are importing Western nuclear technology from France and Canada, and even have Russian reactors.
It is time we accept Chinese leaders' good faith efforts in controlling proliferation, try to get them to improve further, and engage them in peaceful nuclear commerce.
Frank R. Bruce
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Associate director (retired)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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