Chicago To Get $20 Million in Desegregation Aid
Washington--The U.S. Education Department regained control of a portion of its fiscal 1983 budget last week following the Reagan Administration's decision to provide the Chicago public schools with $20 million in school-desegregation assistance.
The Administration's action represented the completion of a dollar-for-dollar trade under which U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur promised to release his hold on $20-million in frozen federal education funds if the government agreed to give $20 million to the school district. (See Education Week, Oct. 12, 1983.)
Judge Shadur impounded $47.5-million in department funds last July after determining that the federal government had not followed through on its 1980 commitment, made in conjunction with an out-of-court settlement of the government's longstanding lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education, to "make every good-faith effort" to provide the school system with desegregation aid.
The judge still controls approximately $27.5 million in frozen department funds. The fate of that money will be determined following a trial that will probably take place in early December, according to lawyers familiar with the dispute.
The Congress set aside the $20-million for Chicago's schools when it passed a governmentwide temporary spending bill in late September. President Reagan signed the bill on Oct. 1.
Normally, federal funds that are left unspent by the end of a fiscal year revert to the U.S. Treasury Department. On Oct. 5, however, Judge Shadur handed down an order that prevented the funds from "lapsing,'' thus ensuring that they can be spent in fiscal 1984.
Robert Howard, the lawyer representing the Chicago schools in the six-month-old legal battle, U.S. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, said last week's action "is extremely important to the city."
"We have a strong desire and obligation to carry out the educational components of [the school system's student-desegregation] plan, which are aimed primarily at schools that will remain predominantly minority," Mr. Howard said. "You can't do that without funding."
According to Mr. Howard, Judge Shadur "is leaning toward a trial" in early December to determine precisely how much money Chicago will need to pay for its desegregation plan and how much money the Administration has available to help fi-nance such efforts.
Directors of federally funded education programs that were threatened with extinction by Judge Shadur's impoundment order also viewed last week's tradeoff as encouraging. Areas of the federal education budget affected by the freeze include desegregation-assistance centers operated under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women's educational equity, Follow Through, special assistance to the Virgin Islands, and programs that receive money from the Secretary of Education's discretionary fund.
"This will be helpful in the short run, but we're not out of the woods yet," said Michael J. Alves, project director for desegregation assistance in the Massachusetts Department of Education.
"The fact that the money will be coming to us means that we will be able to continue performing our services," Mr. Alves said. "But we are still concerned about our future. It appears that this crisis will continue. We have no guarantee that, come next year, we won't find ourselves in the same predicament."
Education Department officials predicted last week that the amount of money released by Judge Shadur will keep programs like Mr. Alves's running through the end of January 1984.