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Schools Using Block Grants for 'High-Tech' Purchases

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More of the nation's school districts are receiving federal funds under the Reagan Administration's education block-grant program. And as a result, more districts are being helped to "move into the high-technology era," according to the results of a recent survey.

But as those small districts gain federal funding, the nation's urban school districts lose money. And that situation, according to a report on the survey, is creating a serious equity problem.

1,110 Districts Responded

The random-sample survey of 2,500 districts was conducted by the American Association of School Administrators (aasa) in an attempt to assess the impact of the Administration's Education Consolidation and Improvement Act of 1981 (ecia) on the schools. About 1,100 districts responded to the aasa survey.

According to a report on the survey's results, 67 percent of the districts received more money during the 1982-83 school year under Chapter 2 of the ecia than they did during the 1981-82 school year, when federal funds were allocated categorically for 28 individual programs.

The survey found that 31 percent of the districts received less money and 2 percent of the districts reported "no funding gain or loss."

51-Percent Increase

Overall, the survey found a 51 percent increase in the number of school districts receiving Chapter 2 grants, which has meant smaller grants for urban school districts.

"The vast majority of students attend schools in large urban centers, the big losers under the block-grant program," the report asserts. "The small districts are gaining funds, but they serve few students.''

As a result of the loss of money, desegregation programs in urban schools have been "crippled," the survey's report contends. The survey found that 94 percent of the districts are not using Chapter 2 funds for desegregation purposes.

More than half of the districts reported using their grants to pur-chase books and other instructional materials; 50 percent spent the money for computer hardware; 34 percent purchased computer software; 19 percent used the money for staff-training programs; and 16 percent funded salaries, according to the survey. "Because there is uncertainty about the future of Chapter 2 and there is not much money, school administrators are funding nonrecurring expenditures," the report notes.

For about 85 percent of the districts that received $1,000 or less during the 1981-82 school year--primarily smaller school districts--this year's allocation brought a 200-percent or greater increase in the previous amount, according to the survey.

This year, the average allocation for these districts was $2,216; last year, the average grant was $597.

On the other hand, districts that had grants of more than $250,000 through the categorical programs received about 80-percent less through the block-grant program. The survey found that in 1982-83, these districts received an average of $105,463.

Significant Funding Losses

The survey also found significant funding losses among districts that received between $50,000 and $75,999 during the 1981-82 school year.

Of about 21 school districts that received $1 million or more under the categorical funding, only three districts received that amount under the block-grant program, according to Claudia Austin, who directed the aasa survey.

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