Federal News Roundup

February 22, 1984 3 min read

The chairman of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has formulated a plan to keep proponents of school-desegregation aid from adding a controversial amendment to the bill that would create a $425-million program for the improvement of mathematics and science instruction.

According to Senate aides and local school officials, the chairman, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, has proposed adding $60 million to the mathematics-science bill for large urban school districts that lost money as a result of the creation of the Chapter 2 education block-grants program in 1981. Most of those losses occurred because desegregation aid under the Emergency School Aid Act was folded into the block-grants program.

A group of Senators led by Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York, and Thomas F. Eagleton, Democrat of Missouri, has planned to offer an amendment to the mathematics-science bill that would resurrect esaa with funding of $100 million annually. The measure has languished in the Senate since its approval by the Labor and Human Resources Committee last May because of Senator Hatch’s opposition to the proposed rider.

The compromise proposal being circulated by the committee chairman would earmark $10 million for the creation of science-and-technology summer camps for urban students. The remaining $50 million could be used by the urban districts for the creation of magnet schools, equipment purchases, and other projects to upgrade academic achievement.

According to Larry O. Maynard, a past president of the National Committee for School Desegregation and a strong proponent of the proposed esaa amendment, the main objection to Senator Hatch’s proposal is that it contains no language regarding school desegregation. He added, however, that backers of the amendment are “encouraged that the Senator seems willing to reach a compromise on the matter.”

The U.S. Justice Department’s recent decision to participate in an upcoming school-desegregation trial in Denver represents “yet another step backwards in civil-rights enforcement,” the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights said last week.

Earlier this month, the department filed papers with a federal district judge in Denver outlining the legal precedents it believes the court should consider in determining whether the 52,000-student district has adequately complied with previous orders to desegregate.

In its Feb. 8 filing, the department’s civil-rights division noted it has not yet taken a position on the merits of the school board’s motion seeking “unitary” status. It said it expects to file a “friend-of-the-court” brief in April “setting out in greater detail our legal analysis and conclusions.”

In the papers it filed with U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch, the department said courts should adopt a two-part test for determining when to end school-desegregation orders.

The first, it said, was “whether the defendant school authorities have fully and faithfully implemented a constitutionally acceptable desegregation plan designed ... to eliminate all vestiges of the prior dual system.” The second is “whether the school officials have subsequently refrained from intentionally segregative acts.”

Representative Don Edwards, Democrat of California and chairman of the House subcommittee, urged Judge Matsch to reject the legal framework being advanced by the department. If the department’s position is adopted, “it won’t matter if proven [violators] of the law in this, or any other, school-desegregation case succeed in righting the wrongs they were found to have committed,” he said.

“It will be enough if they can say that they made a good-faith effort,” Representative Edwards continued. “In other words, results are irrelevant as long as they said they tried.”

A version of this article appeared in the February 22, 1984 edition of Education Week as Federal News Roundup