Department of Education studies criticizing the federal government's reliance on bilingual programs to aid non-English-speaking students have been the subject of an internal dispute at the department for months, officials say.

Supporters of bilingual programs attacked the studies after The Washington Post reported that the studies found little evidence that the programs worked.

"Someone is trying to embarrass the secretary Terrel H. Bell by releasing those studies. We were told they wouldn't be released. The internal dissension over there doesn't do anyone any good," said Ramon Santiago, head of the National Association for Bilingual Education.

Gary Jones, deputy undersecretary for planning and budget, whose office prepared the studies, alluded to the dispute earlier this week in a statement in which he said the issue at question was between his office and the office of bilingual education. Policy recommendations have yet to be made to Bell, he said.

A spokesman for Bell said the secretary had no comment on the study's conclusions and would neither approve nor disown them because he has not reviewed them.

Arnold Torres, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said his group felt it "inappropriate" for Jones to play such an active part in the bilingual issue because he had opposed it as a member of the Fairfax County Board of Education.

"We can understand his background and experience in Fairfax, but feel it is overzealous of him to try to apply it nationwide," Torres said.

Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Calif.), a leading congressional supporter of bilingual education, said he felt the study by Jones' office was biased from the start because project director Alan L. Ginsberg is opposed to the programs. "He could have written the report before the study was conducted," Roybal said.