Plan To Meld 42 Civil-Rights Offices, 38 Laws Into One Unit Under U. S. Attorney General
Washington--The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, along with 41 other federal civil-rights offices, would be consolidated into one agency under a proposal currently being circulated by a group of Republican members of the House of Representatives.
The proposal, which would also replace the 38 federal civil-rights laws with just one statute, is the work of staff members of the House Wednesday Group--an "information-exchange" consortium of 31 members, according to an aide.
Among the changes included in the proposed bill are:
Transfer of all civil-rights regulatory responsibility to the U.S. Attorney General;
Creation of a civil-rights office in the Justice Department approximately twice the size of the department's current civil-rights division;
Repeal of all education-related civil-rights statutes, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Reliance on "good faith" voluntary compliance with civil-rights law by regulated organizations, including schools;
Requirements that state and local governments assume partial responsibility for ensuring compliance with the federal statute; and
Reduction of the civil-rights reporting requirements mandated by current law.
The proposal was quickly denounced by civil-rights groups. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights--a coalition of groups representing women, minorities, senior citizens, and several ethnic groups--wrote a letter on Nov. 11 to a member of the Wednesday Group. It said the measure "would be an effective repeal of the national policy Congress has consistently expressed since 1957 that departments and agencies which distribute federal funds must be responsible for assuring non-discrimination in the use of those funds."
Eleanor Holmes Norton, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Carter Administration, last week called the proposal "a return to pre-1964 law, as if the civil-rights movement never occurred."
Ms. Norton, who is currently a senior fellow with the Urban Institute, said "the proposal is so ultra-extreme that it cannot appeal to members of Congress."
Steven Hoffman, staff director of the Wednesday Group, said the bill probably will be introduced "some-time before Christmas."
The proposal, he said, is a revision of similar proposals that were circulated by the Wednesday Group first6in 1977 and again last January. Provisions from those proposals that have been dropped from the latest version include those to outlaw mandatory school busing, eliminate goals and timetables for affirmative-action lawsuits, and alter the requirements for state redistricting plans under the Voting Rights Act, Mr. Hoffman said.
He added that the proposal has been sent to officials in the Office of Management and Budget in an effort to gain Administration support.
Edwin L. Dale Jr., a spokesman for the budget office, said the Wednesday Group staff proposal was "only one of several" civil-rights reorganizations the Administration was considering.