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New York Chapter 1 Aid for Private Schools Attacked

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The New York City Board of Education "effectively robs from public-school children" to provide Chapter 1 remedial services to students from religious schools, an advocacy group for public education has charged.

The Committee for Public Education and Religious Liberty, or pearl, asserts in a paper issued last month that the school board is providing religious-school students with far better and more expensive federally required remedial services than those offered their public-school peers.

According to the report, board documents show that the cost of serving religious-school pupils has risen dramatically in recent years, to $15 million to $20 million annually, while pupils in the public system have gone without many of the same services.

Pearl, a New York State coalition of 41 groups advocating greater public-school funding and a strict separation of church and state in education, says the board currently offers remedial instruction in 106 vans parked outside religious schools at a cost of $100,000 each annually.

It says the board also provides students in 30 religious schools with take-home computers, and allows students in 19 such schools to obtain guidance services at public schools.

"[T]he cost of this accommodation of religious-school interests is a gross violation of the public interest," the report argues, citing inadequacies in public-school funding and services.

It notes, for example, that 4,000 public-school teachers recently took pay deferrals; that most public-school children must share a single computer with 30 other students; and that many other public-school pupils have no access to guidance counselors.

Effects of 1985 Ruling

A spokesman for the board of education last week countered that the school system is required by federal law to provide eligible religious-school students with Chapter 1 services comparable to those offered to students in public schools, and that the system could see its federal aid jeopardized if it failed to meet the reel15lquirement.

The district often must provide the services through mobile classrooms and computers, the spokesman said, because of the 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, in Aguilar v. Felton, that struck down the city's program of sending public-school teachers into religious schools to provide remedial instruction.

The pearl report asserts that 82 percent of the 278 religious schools now receiving remedial-education services are within three to six blocks of public schools where the services could be offered at a much lower cost. Only 17 religious schools have agreed to send their children to public schools for remedial instruction, the report states.

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