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Federal File: Researchers Replaced; Regional Role Playing; Refugees Leave School; Allocations Disputed

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Professional staff members of the National Institute of Education--the education-research agency of the federal government--have charged the Reagan Administration with using partisan political affiliation as a criterion for hiring new staff, in violation of federal personnel regulations.

In a complaint filed with the government's Merit Systems Protection Board, the staff members alleged that the Administration officials in charge of the institute have refused to seek qualified researchers through a competitive national search process.

Instead, they charged, the officials have announced their intentions to bring "new blood" into the institute by hiring unqualified applicants who are affiliated with the right wing of the Republican Party, and by firing rearchers who were hired by the institute for their expertise in various subjects.

The unsigned complaint named approximately 20 new institute employees who it claimed were hired for management-level or highly technical posts on the basis of the new criteria--a situation the complaint said had created "chaos and confusion."

Regional Role Playing

The Education Department plans to give its 10 regional civil-rights offices more management authority in the current fiscal year than it did in the past.

According to a notice in the Oct. 19 Federal Register, "varied civil-rights needs throughout the country" will require each of the 10 offices to "develop and implement its own [civil-rights] compliance program in fiscal year 1983."

In addition, regional civil-rights directors will have an expanded role in planning the region's overall program in order to better reflect "the region's characteristics and civil-rights priorities," according to the notice.

The department is accepting public comments on its overall fiscal 1983 civil-rights plan until Dec. 3.

Refugees Leave School

High-school students over the age of 18 who were receiving financial support from the federal government's refugee-assistance program lost those benefits last summer, with the result that some refugee students are being forced to leave school before receiving their diplomas.

The government has withdrawn its financial support for adult refugees who are attending school on a full-time basis, in an effort to bring its policy toward refugees in line with that toward Americans receiving welfare payments.

Government officials have suggested that refugees can work during the day and attend high school classes at night.

But the result of the cut-off of funds, argue some educators in the Washington suburbs--where 1,200 such students attend public high schools--will mean that some students will not be able to find employment because of language and cultural barriers.

"We can't even get jobs for our English speakers. Tell me what sort of jobs they are going to get these kids?" Mary Curry, the vice principal of Montgomery Blair High School in suburban Maryland, told the Washington Post. "These kids aren't looking for a permanent handout; they only need a little help now," she said.

Allocations Disputed

A recent hearing before a federal district court has closed the door on one Chapter 1 funding dispute but apparently cleared the way for another to begin.

On Oct. 22, U.S. District Judge Norma H. Johnson declared moot a lawsuit that pitted about a dozen states against Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell and another dozen states over the distribution of federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children.

The states and the Education Department were battling over Secretary Bell's decision to base Chapter 1 allocations this year on 1970 Census Bureau poverty data. Half of the states claimed they would be shortchanged if the 1970 data were used; the other states claimed that they would be losers if the allocations were based on 1980 data.

The dispute appeared to be resolved in September when the Congress overrode a Presidential veto and voted to appropriate an additional $148 million for the Chapter 1 program.

But the Congress specified that all of that money should be distributed to school systems, a situation that displeased a number of state agencies--which are usually permitted to reserve one percent of the state's total Chapter 1 allotments for administrative costs.

Lawyers representing New York and several other states claimed at the hearing that, at present, some state educational agencies are receiving more than their fair share of Chapter 1 aid earmarked for state administrative overhead. Secretary Bell, they continued, should therefore be required to devise a solution that would ensure that all state agencies receive an equitable share of Chapter 1 aid.

Judge Johnson ruled that the issue was not central to the original Chapter 1 dispute, but also made it clear that nothing would stand in the way of the aggrieved states should they wish to initiate a new lawsuit on that point.

--Tom Mirga and Eileen White

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