Joel S. Berke, 45, a former official with the Department of Education and a specialist in the the financing of inner city schools, died Tuesday at a hospital in New York City after a heart attack. He lived in Bethesda.

Dr. Berke was a finance consultant for several federal agencies, including the Senate Select Committee on Equal Educational Opportunity. He was an expert witness in state and federal cases challenging school finance laws.

He also coauthored several books on school financing, including "Politicians, Judges and City Schools -- Reforming School Finance in New York," "Federal Aid to Education -- Who Benefits? Who Governs?" and "Answers to Inequity: An Analysis of the New School Finance Laws."

Dr. Berke was a native of New York City and a graduate of the University of Vermont. He earned master's and doctor's degrees at Syracuse University and attended Harvard law school. He was a legislative aide to the New York State Senate from 1962 until 1963 and later was a professor at Syracuse University and the University of Vermont.

In 1969, he moved to Washington to establish the Washington office of the Policy Institute of the Syracuse University Research Corpporation. He joined the Educational Testing Service here in 1975 and set up its Educational Policy Research Institute.

He was deputy assistant secretary of education for policy development in the Department of Education from 1977 to 1978. He then returned to the Educational Testing Service as a senior research scientist. During the 1970s, Dr. Berke was an adjunct professor at Columbia, George Washington and Princeton universities.

Survivors include his wife, the former Astrid E. Merget, and his mother, Irene S. Berke, both of Bethesda.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Joel S. Berke Memorial Fund at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University.