Since January, the Reagan administration systematically has fired all the presidentially appointed members of four national educational advisory councils and has replaced them with 57 new appointees, nearly all of them Republicans and former campaign workers.
That move, as well as attempts by the White House to change the executive directors of some of the boards, have been viewed by President Reagan's critics as an attempt to politicize the boards.
The criticism surfaced when Reagan began replacing the 16 presidentially appointed members of the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education, 16 members of the Women's Educational Programs Council, 12 members of the Continuing Education Council and 13 members of the Adult Education Council.
Nearly all of the members had been appointed to three-year, staggered terms to ensure continuity. In the past, presidents simply appointed new members, often political friends, to replace those whose terms had expired.
Reagan, however, has replaced all the appointments, an action that concerned the executive directors of the councils, according to Raymond C. Parrott, who, until yesterday, was director of the Vocational Education Council.
Previously, the administration has replaced members of at least three Justice Department advisory boards and has tried to force Democratic members of the U.S. Parole Commission to step down before their terms were finished.
Parrott and other staff directors grew more alarmed April 22 and 23, when Reagan's new Adult Education Board met and accepted the resignation of its director, Gary A. Eyre, who had directed the council since it began 11 years ago.
The council unanimously agreed to hire Rick Ventura, director of development at the University of California in San Diego, whose name had been submitted by the White House.
"The White House said to us that we were under no obligation to employ Mr. Ventura," said Daniel E. Brennan Sr., the council's acting chairman and a Republican attorney from New York. "They only suggested him because they knew we were in an emergency situation and they had investigated him and had his name on file for possible appointments in the administration. Mr. Eyre assured us that he was not resigning under any pressure." Eyre was on leave and could not be reached for comment.
The new council was so anxious to get going that it decided to forestall the usual procedure of considering other candidates, Brennan said.
A few days after Eyre resigned, Parrott said he was contacted by the new chairman of his council, Edward D. Miller, head of Future Business Leaders of America, and was told that "The White House wanted a new director." Parrott, who has been with the council for four years, said Miller told him that he could resign or be fired. Miller could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Parrott's and Eyre's jobs are under the so-called Excepted Service, and are not covered by the usual Civil Service protections.
Parrott's allegation prompted Rep. John N. Erlenborn (R-Ill.), the senior minority member of the House Education and Labor Committee, to write Miller Wednesday, urging him to "preserve the independence and integrity of the council" by consulting various congressional subcommittees before picking a new director.
After the new members of the vocational council were sworn in yesterday, they held a closed executive session to consider Parrott's fate. He said afterward that he had refused to resign and was being suspended as director and assigned other duties while the council looks for a new director.
"I didn't do anything wrong as director," Parrott said yesterday. "This whole thing is politics."
The White House declined to comment on the situation.
The councils were created to advise Congress and the president on new ways to improve education. Brennan said he believes the president just wants to "shake these councils up a little."