Education Undersecretary Gary Bauer, who chairs President Reagan's Working Group on the Family, told a group of black educators in Wisconsin yesterday that "the Bill Cosby show and the values it promotes may ultimately be more important to black children's success than a bevy of new federal programs."

Bauer, the No. 2 official in the Education Department and one of its pointmen on the issues of morality and values in schools, said the administration's push for "traditional values" will benefit poor blacks as well as middle-class whites.

"The set of character traits which we refer to as the Protestant work ethic has been ridiculed and debunked by self-proclaimed intellectuals," Bauer said. "But the facts clearly show that it works for minorities and poor children as well as the children of the suburbs."

Bauer's remarks, to the Wingspread Conference in Racine, were billed as a "major policy address" and a precursor of his Working Group on the Family report, due to be released in November. One sidelight of that report, Bauer said in an interview, will be to emphasize the importance of values and character in overcoming drug abuse, teen-age pregnancy and family disintegration in black America.

In the speech, made available here, he praised the "unsung heroes and heroines," who he described as "those countless poor and minority families who manage to stay together and raise their children to responsible adulthood in spite of welfare programs with disincentives to family cohesiveness . . . . "

He said, "If government has contributed in any way to the dissolution of families, particularly the incredible rates of family break-up in the black community, it must move swiftly to rectify the damage."

Bauer also leveled a broadside at "value-neutral" curriculum in America's schools, a constant administration theme. "It is no more possible to educate value-free than it is to educate fact-free," he said.