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Chapter 1 Intervention Is Supported

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Washington--Two civil-rights organizations and the National Governors' Association have endorsed controversial "program improvement" language in the omnibus education bill that would give state agencies broad authority to intervene in failing Chapter 1 programs.

The groups joined the Council of Chief State School Officers in supporting the provision, which has emerged as a major issue in debate over the pending reauthorization measure, HR 5.

Called Rights Issue

"Program improvement is the civil-rights issue for Chapter 1 in the 1980's and 1990's, just as fiscal compliance was the civil-rights issue in the 1970's," the National Urban League and the naacp Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a joint letter to House and Senate conferees considering the bill.

Some provisions requiring state and local officials to work together on improving local compensatory-education efforts are certain to be included in the legislation, which conferees may meet on this week.

'Corrective' Language

At issue, however, is language in the Senate version of the bill that would grant state agencies power to "take appropriate corrective action" in cases where districts have "substantially failed" for two years to improve the achievement level of Chapter 1 students.

Organizations representing local school boards, administrators, and teachers oppose the language, arguing that it could lead to unwarranted intrusion into local affairs--possibly including school "takeovers" by state officials. (See Education Week, Feb. 10, 1988.)

But, like the state chiefs, the civil-rights groups argue that the Senate language "will have a much better chance of accomplishing the objective of upgrading the effectiveness of services delivered to Chapter 1 students."

Districts "must be held accountable" for their use of federal Chapter 1 funding, they said in the letter.

And states, they said, must have greater authority to act if they are to oversee the programs effectively.

Governors Also React

In a similar letter to the conferees, the governors' association argued that the Senate provisions "are carefully crafted to balance state and local concerns."

Those provisions, the nga said, "better recognize the constitutional responsibilities of the states to provide education in our federal system and the active role states have taken to improve the quality of education."--jm

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