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Congressional hearings were to begin this week on President Reagan's bill to outlaw tax exemptions for schools with racially discriminatory policies, even if those policies are grounded in religious beliefs.

Several conservative religious groups, including the Moral Majority, say they feel betrayed by the President's reversal on the issue, and have mounted a lobbying effort to defeat or water down the bill on the grounds that it would invite federal interference in church affairs.

Meanwhile, House Democrats have introduced two resolutions maintaining that no new legislation is needed, because existing law already prohibits tax benefits for schools with discriminatory policies.

The U.S. Department of Education will not, for the time being, exempt more than 1,000 postsecondary institutions from civil-rights rules by changing its definition of federal "financial assistance."

Officials of the department had sought to redefine federal assistance as direct aid to schools, excluding federal aid to students. Some 1,000 colleges and vocational schools receive no direct aid but enroll students who benefit from federal grants and federally guaranteed student loans. Had the department been successful in changing the rule, those schools would no longer have been subject to such civil-rights requirements as Title IX, the law banning sex discrimination.

The issue is being tested in a federal-court case involving Grove City College in Pennsylvania, which contends that, since it receives no direct federal assistance, it is not subject to federal rules.

The Department of Justice, which must clear any changes in civil-rights regulations, objected to the proposal on the grounds that it probably would not stand up in court.

The Education Department, however, is still considering exempting federally guaranteed student loans from its definition of "federal assistance" to institutions--a move that would exempt about 325 schools from the civil-rights requirements.

The National Parent-Teacher Association (pta) last week announced the formation of a national tv-review panel that will recommend programs for family viewing. At the same time, the pta said it plans to develop a new curriculum to improve children's "tv-viewing skills."

Both are new projects for the organization, which reports a membership of six million in the U.S.

The review panel, based in Los Angeles, will be composed of a "pre-screening" committee and local committees made up of a parent, a teacher, a student, a pediatrician, a curriculum specialist, a "media educator," and a psychologist.

To develop its viewing-skills plan, the pta will hold eight two-day meetings around the country at sites to be selected in the coming months.

"We will be sending letters out to all 50 states about these meetings," said Virginia Macy, chairman of the education commission of the national pta

The meetings will not be open to the public, but will be limited to no more than 62 state and local education leaders and pta officials.

The resulting viewing-skills plan will be published by Phi Delta Kappa, the national education society.

Vol. 01, Issue 19

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