Congress has never been known for its remarkable speed. On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to create a Cabinet-level Department of Education--something Congressmen have been suggesting since 1867.
The House voted 215-201 to approve the bill and sent it on to President Carter, who will sign the bill into law as soon as someone finds him a quill pen. Carter has been after this one since 1976, when he traded a promise to create the new agency for the endorsement of his campaign from the all-powerful National Education Association (NEA), an agency that had never before lent its clout to a political candidate.
The House vote promises a private home for education--an affice which drifted from the Interior Department to the Federal Security Agency before coming to rest in the bureaucratic quagmire of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Not everybody was happy about the thirteenth cabinet department, however. President Bok, for one, who has nightmares about further government intervention into university affairs and policies, said the new department will make it easier for the feds to get their hands into campuses.
Supporters of the bill, however, answer that Bok's fears are unjustified--they say the bill contains the strongest provision in history for preventing needless intervention.
Other opponents were less blunt than Bok. A disappointed spokesman for the American Federation of Teachers--which locked horns with the NEA over the proposal--said "the department will spend two years thrashing around trying to figure out which end is up."
With the new agency a fait accompli, interest turned immediately to Carter's choice for department secretary. The good money is on former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca, a Chicano with a longtime interest in education, who just happened to be poking around Washington's education community this week.
Others, however, feel Apodaca has come on too strong, and that he is too political an appointment.