Justice Department To Contest Chicago Desegregation Funding
Washington--The Reagan Administration has appealed a federal district judge's order requiring the federal government to spend at least $14.6 million this year, and possibly as much as $250 million over the next five years, to help desegregate Chicago's public schools.
The Justice Department, in papers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on July 13, said the order handed down by U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur constituted "an unwarranted interference and intrusion upon the discretion vested in officials in the executive branch." The department also filed a motion asking Judge Shadur to stay his order pending the appeal.
'Every Good Faith Effort'
On June 30, Judge Shadur ruled that the government had failed to live up to its agreement to "make every good faith effort" to help fund the school system's desegregation plan. The government made that commitment in a consent decree signed by Justice Department officials and the city's school board in September 1980.
"On the contrary, since Jan. 21, 1983, the executive branch of the United States and the Department of Education have been engaged in a continuous effort to strip away all means by which they could fulfill the United States' obligations" to Chicago, Judge Shadur said.
In early June, the judge ordered the Administration not to spend $42 million in Education Department funds, pending his final ruling in the case.
Those funds included $24 million in school-desegregation assistance under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and $18 million from a ''discretionary fund" allocated to Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell.
In his June 30 ruling, he amended his earlier order and prohibited the spending of $9 million from the Secretary's fund and a total of $45 million in funds earmarked for Title IV, women's educational equity, Follow Through, and special assistance to the Virgin Islands. He then ordered the government to give Chicago $14.6 million this year to cover the city's immediate revenue shortfall for school desegregation in the coming school year.
In addition, he ordered federal officials to work with the Congress to "preserve the availability" of $250n should such shortfalls occur during the next five years.
"This court's decision is a sweeping and unprecedented judicial intrusion into the formulation of national policy," the Justice Department said in its motion seeking a stay of the order.
The order, the department continued, is "an affront to the doctrine of separation of powers" and a "profound intrusion into the constitutionally protected domain of the executive branch."
"[It] marks the first time that a court has directed an official of the executive branch to divert funds from hundreds of federal grantees across the nation in order to finance a desegregation plan for one school district," the department pointed out. "It marks the first time that a court has ordered the executive branch to seek legislation in derogation of Administration policy if a specified sum of money cannot be produced by reallocating funds."
The department also questioned how Judge Shadur calculated the $14.6-million figure as the government's minimum obligation to Chicago for the upcoming school year.
"The nature and scope of the [school board's] desegregation plan are so broad that they are virtually indistinguishable from all other educational activities conducted by the board," it said. "It appears that the board is attempting to balance its overall budget by seeking to make the United States responsible for the shortfall."