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Coalition Seeks Urban-Education Policy for Women, Minorities

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Washington--The National Education Association has met with the Congressional Black Caucus and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to discuss the development of a position paper and recommendations for a "national urban-education policy geared to the needs of minority and female students."

At a press conference here last week, Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the 1.7-million-member nea, said a push for equity must join the push for excellence as "vital national priorities" if "public schools are to live up to the ideals of American democracy."

The press conference followed the testimony of 12 witnesses during a hearing sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Education Braintrust, a subcommittee of the caucus.

The purpose of the hearing, said Representative Major R. Owens, Democrat of New York and chairman of the bipartisan Congressional group, was "to elicit opinion and recommendations for a national policy, which may in turn be handed to candidates, primarily those running for President."

"We hope," he added, "to go beyond the candidates and get some part of that position into the platforms of both major parties."

Final Copy in June

A final copy of the position paper and recommendations, Ms. Futrell said, is expected to be outlined in Philadelphia at the June meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Ms. Futrell said she met with the group's urban mayors about a month ago to discuss a national urban-education policy.

At the press conference last week she said that the nation needs a policy to "guarantee our schools the funding support that they need; to guarantee all children equal access to educational programs and services; and to guarantee minority and female youth the preparation and training they need to meet the demands of our emerging new economy."

Expected Recommendations

Among the recommendations the groups expect to emerge from their discussions are:

That Chapter I education aid for the disadvantaged be increased. Currently, Ms. Futrell said, only 45 percent of the 11 million children eligible to benefit from the aid receive services.

"The squeeze on Chapter I," she said, "is one major way the Reagan Administration has stymied our drive for equity and excellence."

That the Head Start program for disadvantaged preschool children, which Representative Owens termed "a national success," be expanded. According to Representative Owens, only 25 percent of the students eligible for Head Start programs are enrolled in them.

That educators should ensure that minority and female students receive in elementary school the background courses and confidence necessary to tackle academic courses in the higher grades. The underenrollment of minorities and females in academic courses, Ms. Futrell said, was noted in "A Nation at Risk," the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.

Foreign-language courses and advanced classes in mathematics, science, and social studies are among those that are "virtually re-segregated," Ms. Futrell said. "We find a small number of female kids who have been led to believe or feel that they can succeed in these programs."

That programs need to be developed that will encourage students not to drop out of school, and that will encourage those who have dropped out to re-enter.

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