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E.D. Funds 'Frozen' Pending Ruling

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A federal district judge in Chicago said last week that there is "substantial evidence" that the federal government has backed off from a promise it made three years ago to help pay for the Chicago school district's desegregation plan.

U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur also ordered Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell to freeze approximately $12.5 million in Education Department funds until June 22, when he will hold another hearing on the school district's lawsuit seeking to force the federal officials to come up with the funds.

In September 1980, city and federal officials signed a consent decree calling for the desegregation of the 435,000-student school district, the nation's second largest. The federal government promised to help finance the desegregation effort as part of the agreement. At that time, the Emergency School Aid Act (esaa), which provided funds to school districts undergoing desegregation, was still in effect.

The consent decree was approved by Judge Shadur last January. But a year and a half earlier, esaa had been abolished and folded into the education block grants.

In papers filed with the court, the school district claimed that the abolition of esaa severely limited the availablity of federal funds for desegregation, constituting a breach of the consent decree.

"I find that there is at least a substantial likelihood that the school board is going to prevail on its petition," Judge Shadur said last week.

He then ordered Secretary Bell to temporarily freeze a portion of his $28-million "discretionary fund" under the block-grants program. Mr. Bell was also ordered to freeze funds that have not yet been obligated to states and technical-assistance centers under the under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.--tm

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