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Federal File: Black Students' Needs; Women's Panel's Shadow

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"Public education has become an instrument for blocking rather than facilitating upward mobility" for black children, asserted a report released last week by the Joint Center for Political Studies, a research organization that focuses on the problems of black Americans.

"The failures of our public education system," the report said, "are reflected in the fact that blacks are disproportionately represented among the 72 million Americans who are functionally illiterate."

The report identified "three basic problems" in the schools: a lack of access to "quality public education," the "inadequate representation" of blacks in colleges, and the large numbers of black 17-year-olds (47 percent, according to one study) who are functionally illiterate.

The report, which was prepared by more than 30 black scholars and activists, called for continuing aid to education, the vigorous enforcement of laws requiring the desegregation of schools, and the demand by parents that school districts "be held accountable for the achievement level of students."

Vocational education, basic skills, and computer and scientific literacy were also cited as necessary for the improvement of black students' achievement levels.

The report acknowledged that some black families--particularly those headed by poor females--"are unable to provide the kind of early education and environment that their children need."

"An effective education policy," it concluded, "requires an effective family policy."


Members of a "watchdog group" of women's-rights advocates recently accused the Reagan Administration of using a Presidential advisory committee to undermine a $6-million federal program designed to foster equal opportunity for women and girls in schools and colleges.

The Citizens Council on Women's Educational Programs, as the group is known, made that accusation during a recent press conference held only a few doors away from a room in which the official National Advisory Council on Women's Educational Programs was meeting.

The advocacy group was formed last year after President Reagan dismissed all 17 members of the official council and replaced them with new members of his own choice. Several members of the new group are former members of the Presidential advisory panel.

According to the "shadow" panel, the official panel has failed to issue reports, to hold hearings, or to make any major recommendations since it was reconstituted last year.

Because the new panel members have little expertise in "sex equity,'' they have failed to inform the President "of the implications of his policies to weaken Title IX, to defund and distort the Women's Educational Equity Act program, and to dismantle the sex-equity provisions of the Vocational Education Act," the group charged.

Members of the official panel accused their accusers of suffering from a bad case of "sour grapes."

--ew and tm

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