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House Passes Bill To Assist Districts With Desegregation

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Washington--A bill to reenact the Emergency School Aid Act, a now-defunct federal law that provided funds to assist school districts undergoing desegregation, was approved by the House last week, as a Senate committee prepared to hold hearings on the measure.

By a vote of 299 to 120, the House on June 7 set spending for the measure, HR 2207, at $100 million per year. The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee is scheduled to begin hearings on a companion bill, S 1256, on June 16.

The previous law, known as esaa, received $149 million in its last year of operation, fiscal 1981. The measure had, since 1972, provided funds for expenses related to desegregation, such as magnet schools, new curricula, and community-relations programs.

Districts were not allowed to use the funds for busing.

The esaa was repealed in 1981 when it was incorporated into the education block-grants package, along with more than 30 other federal-education programs. Schools were permitted to use block-grants funds for desegregation activities, but a survey by the American Association of School Administrators reported that "94.3 percent of the school districts surveyed are not using [block-grant] funds for desegregation purposes."

The loss of esaa funds has been identified as a particular problem for urban school districts, such as Buffalo and St. Louis. Senators from those states have been among the principal supporters of its reenactment.

"The Reagan Administration has repeatedly stated its support for voluntary school desegregation," said Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York.

"Yet, by including esaa monies in the ... block-grant program," he continued, "the Administration has effectively deprived school districts of funds necessary for undertaking school-desegregation programs.''

In other action last week, the House approved, 288 to 132, a measure to reauthorize the Follow Through program for low-income children through 1985 and to increase its funding from the current $19.4 million to approximately $23 million.

The 15-year-old program, which serves children who attend preschool programs such as Head Start, is scheduled to expire at the end of 1984. The 1981 block-grants law mandates that, after that time, Follow Through will be eliminated as a separate program, but its activities may be continued by school districts using block-grants funds.

In addition to extending the program's separate status by one fiscal year, the House bill, HR 2148, would create a "national commission on Follow Through" to assess the program's accomplishments and make recommendations on its future.

No companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.--ew

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