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E.D. Withholds Aid for 2 Districts' Magnet Schools

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Washington--The Education Department has withheld funds earmarked for two schools under the second year of their districts' magnet-school grants because the schools--one in Seattle and one in New York City--failed to meet desegregation requirements.

A department official confirmed that it is the first time the agency has refused to release magnet-schools aid for failure to comply with the department's desegregation rules.

In a move that observers said indicates stricter scrutiny of desegregation compliance, the department required seven districts that received funds for the first time last year to sign special assurances that they would address desegregation-related problems as a condition of receiving the two-year grants. Such a request had never been made before, the department official said.

Earlier this year, the department informed at least five districts that at least one of their schools apparently did not meet its desegregation goals, and asked for "corrective-action plans." The agency held up second-year funds earmarked for six schools in five districts pending more detailed review. (See Education Week, Sept. 5, 1990.)

Department officials said last week that funds intended for Cleveland High School in Seattle and Intermediate High School 232 in New York's Community District 18 would be redistributed.

District officials said the Seattle school will lose about $240,000 and the New York school $371,674.

Reducing Racial Isolation

Alicia Coro, director of school-improvement programs at the department, said district officials submitted satisfactory plans to correct desegregation deficiencies at three other schools under review--Nathan Hale High School in Seattle and schools in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and New York City's Community District 15.

Officials also revealed that Richard R. Green High School for Teaching, which is run by the New York City Board of Education, was the school whose funding was denied earlier in the year. However, Ms. Coro said, this did not happen because the school failed to meet desegregation requirements but because it did not establish a consortium with Teachers College, Columbia University, as school officials had promised to do.

The problem at Cleveland High and Junior High 232, simply put, is that the number of minority students attending them increased, Ms. Coro said.

The magnet-schools program aids plans designed to reduce racial isolation. Under current rules, a school that is more than 50 percent minority or more than 50 percent white becomes ineligible if the dominant group increases its dominance.

In Seattle, for example, Cleveland High's minority enrollment rose from 68.8 percent last year to 72.6 in September 1990, said Ken Watson, supervisor of grant programs for the district. At Hale, it rose from 51.3 percent to 53.6 percent.

He said the district's decision to institute a "controlled choice" program last year contributed heavily to the problem by injecting uncertainty into school assignments. At the same time, he said, the district established bilingual-education centers at several schools, including Hale and Cleveland, boosting minority enrollment.

He said that the district was able to cap the enrollment of bilingual students at Hale quickly enough to bring the school's minority population back to its "base" percentage, but that too many such students had already been enrolled at Cleveland.

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