WASHINGTON — A pair of Education Department aides who favored eliminating federal school aid for the handicapped resigned Thursday.
The action occurred a few hours after Education Secretary William J. Bennett had labeled as "insensitive and repugnant" some of the comments that aide Eileen M. Gardner had made about issues involving the handicapped.
Bennett had stopped short of bowing to demands that he fire Gardner, former education analyst for the Heritage Foundation, and Lawrence A. Uzzell, a conservative activist who favors scrapping most federal school programs.
But, later, his assistant secretary for public affairs and legislation, Anne Graham, announced: "Eileen Gardner and Larry Uzzell have voluntarily submitted their resignations, and Secretary Bennett has accepted them."
On Wednesday, Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) had warned Bennett that he would try to block funds for the salaries of the two aides. Weicker, chairman of a Senate appropriations subcommittee, had written Bennett that the views of Gardner and Uzzell "are directly contrary to the laws you and your department are sworn to uphold."
Bennett wrote back Thursday that Gardner's comments on handicapped issues "strike me personally as insensitive and repugnant." But, he said, "I have traditionally tolerated a wide variety of views among my employees and associates."
15 Groups Urged Ouster
Fifteen disability rights organizations had called for Gardner's ouster.
Gardner, who has a doctorate in education from Harvard, wrote in 1983 that spending on education for the handicapped has "selfishly drained resources from the normal school population and most probably weakened the quality of teaching."
Gardner has also written that a person's "external circumstances"--such as a physical handicap--are tied to "his level of inner spiritual development."