WASHINGTON — The cost associated with having a liaison to the U.N. in Paris -- about $632,000 -- was a microscopic fraction of the Education Department's annual budget. Still, a $77,000 line item for an apartment in the City of Lights gave at least the appearance of the kind of government excess that the Obama administration said it was eager to stamp out in its 2010 spending plan.
And so President Obama and two senior aides on Thursday cited elimination of the department's liaison to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization as evidence of fiscal prudence.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, May 09, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Education attache: In Friday's Section A, an article about President Obama's budget proposal to eliminate a Department of Education attache to the United Nations referred to Paris as the City of Lights. Paris is called the City of Light.
Obama declared that "participation in UNESCO is very important, but we can save this money and still participate using e-mail and teleconferencing and a small travel budget."
Peter R. Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the loss of the position would be offset by the hiring of additional officers from the foreign service and U.S. Agency for International Development who would "help us reengage with the world" with "a higher priority."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan was more blunt: "We're basically trying to cut out political hack jobs," he said in a conference call with reporters.
The largest chunks of the projected savings were about $140,000 in moving expenses, $155,000 in salary and $138,000 in administrative expenses -- as well as the $77,000 for apartment rent and utilities. All expenses are based on rates paid by the State Department.
Even without an education attache, the U.S. mission to UNESCO would number four Americans and about a dozen local staffers, according to a State Department spokesman. The delegation is headed by an ambassador, a post currently open.
UNESCO promotes literacy and sustainable development and encourages the preservation of cultural and natural heritages. The attache's job was to meet with delegates from other countries to develop strategies to advance UNESCO's priorities, which include reducing gender disparity in education.