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Bill Would Restore Funds for Desegregating Schools

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Washington--A bill to reauthorize the now-defunct Emergency School Aid Act of 1972 (esaa) has been introduced in the Senate by Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York.

Before it was repealed in 1981, when the Congress passed the education block-grants law, esaa provided categorical grants to school districts implementing desegregation plans.

The Senator's bill, which was introduced on Feb. 3, would provide $177.9 million for the program next year, up from $144 million in fiscal 1981, the last year that the program existed outside of the block grant.

Earlier this month, President Reagan asked the Congress to spend $478 million in fiscal 1984 for the entire block-grant program, a part of which school districts may spend on projects formerly funded under esaa But the projects must also compete with more than 30 other types of activities permitted under the block-grants program.

"If Congress and the courts mandate school-desegregation efforts, then we have some level of responsibility to ensure that the resources to accomplish the task are at hand," said Senator Moynihan in a statement announcing the introduction of the bill.

Funding for desegregation assistance "has not been forthcoming under the block grant for the simple reason that new formulas have vast-ly increased the number of eligible districts while the level of funding, overall, has declined," he added. "In addition, desegregation is far down the list of priorities specified in the block-grant criteria."

Under esaa, the federal government provided school districts with funds to support desegregation programs other than the mandatory busing of students. These efforts included the establishment of magnet schools, the creation of plans to redraw district attendance boundaries, and the underwriting of special educational programs for children in newly desegregated schools.
Loss of Millions

Officials in large urban school districts, where desegregation funds were concentrated under the former program, have complained for months that the inclusion of esaa in the block grant has resulted in a loss of millions of dollars in desegregation aid at a time when they can least afford such a loss.

Last year, the Council of the Great City Schools, which has strongly advocated the reauthorization of the act, estimated that its 31 member districts would lose $110 million in desegregation aid during the current school year as a result of the elimination of esaa

A spokesman for Senator Moynihan said last week that the Committee on Labor and Human Resources is planning to hold hearings on the bill.--tm

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