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School Leaders, Desegregation Panel Lock Horns in Chicago

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The leadership of the Chicago school system has become locked in a bitter struggle with the commission that oversees the district's desegregation efforts.

Paul G. Vallas, the system's chief executive officer, was expected late last week to urge the school board to dissolve the district's Monitoring Commission for Desegregation Implementation, which a recent audit accuses of financial improprieties.

The commission, in turn, has accused Mr. Vallas and the district's five-member "superboard" of withholding the funding and information the commission needs to monitor district compliance with a federal court's desegregation orders.

In a motion filed this month in U.S. District Court, the commission alleges that the current board has rebuffed its requests for meetings and information, and has shirked its duty to replace departing commission members.

Spending Questioned

The 15-member, board-appointed commission was established under a 1980 desegregation agreement between the Chicago school board and the U.S. Department of Justice.

It is supposed to monitor the district's efforts both to maintain racially balanced schools and to provide additional educational services to children in overwhelmingly black or Hispanic schools.

On Nov. 14, the same day the commission filed its complaint, Mr. Vallas released a 15-page report on an internal audit of the commission undertaken two months before.

The report alleges that the commission spent more than $185,000 in the previous year on consultants, in violation of school board policies, and that its members spent more than $28,000 during the same period on questionable or inappropriate expenses such as food, drinks, and a massage.

Stuart Chanen, a lawyer for the monitoring commission, last week described the audit as a misleading "political smear campaign" designed to undermine the commission's authority.

Mr. Vallas denied the audit was politically motivated.

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