Lauro F. Cavazos, the first Hispanic American ever appointed to the Cabinet, resigned Wednesday as secretary of education.

He is the second member of President Bush's Cabinet to depart in recent weeks. Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole was the first.Education Department spokeswoman Etta Fielek said Cavazos gave no immediate reason for his decision. She said Cavazos decided to resign Tuesday and she did not know what he plans to do.

Adminstration sources said that Cavazos had tired of criticism aimed at his performance behind the scenes by White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu. His critics had faulted the education chief as an inadequate salesman for the administration's policies, who never mastered television skills.

The resignation was announced at a meeting of Bush's Cabinet Wednesday. Cavazos did not attend.

Asked why he was absent, Fielek said, "I believe he feels this is the most comfortable way for him to leave. He's been very specific by phone this morning with the chief of staff that he's not very good at farewells and he thought this is the most comfortable way."

The resignation is effective Saturday.

Shortly after news of Cavazos' resignation, speculations began on possible successors. They include Chairman Lynne Cheney of the National Endowment for the Humanities, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and Hawaii Republican Rep. Patricia Saiki, who is a former schoolteacher.

Cavazos, 63, has led the Department of Education since 1988. He was appointed by former President Reagan and held over in the job by Bush.

Bush, in a letter accepting Cavazos' resignation, said: "For more than two years, and under two presidents, you have distinguished yourself through your devotion to improving the education of our nation's children."

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which oversees education, commended Cavazos at his announced retirement Wednesday.

"He was a dedicated educator and champion of children who brought increased visibility to the importance of education for all Americans," Hatch said.