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The 20-year-old school-desegregation case in Los Angeles went back to court last week, with the plaintiffs asking that their federal suit be certified as a class action.

The current suit was filed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People last April, after the district dropped its mandatory busing program under the terms of a statewide referendum. That referendum, known as Proposition 1, repealed a California law that in effect required racial balance in the schools, regardless of whether segregation was intentionally caused by official action. Proposition 1 is currently being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The naacp's suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, charges the system with failing to provide equal educational opportunities for black children.

The district has responded that its voluntary desegregation program, which went into effect last September, satisfies federal requirements.

After opposition from black leaders, the Illinois State Board of Education has abandoned a move to repeal a law that forces the Chicago school district to target a portion of state aid to schools serving the disadvantaged.

Illinois has a "weighted" formula for state aid to schools, providing more money to districts that enroll large numbers of disadvantaged students. The extra funds are known as "state Title I" funds, because they are allocat-ed according to the number of children in each district who are eligible for the federal Title I program.

The law in question, passed in 1979, requires Chicago to channel 58 percent of its state disadvantaged-student funds to the schools where such youngsters attend classes. During the current school year, $124.5 million is to be targeted to schools attended by poor students. Chicago is the only district in the state required to spend the money directly on poor children's schools.

State education officials have complained that the law creates additional paperwork and costs in monitoring Chicago's compliance with the statute. They also contend that the law discriminates against Chicago by imposing stricter requirements on the state's largest district, and they also worry the law may dilute the benefits of the money by channeling some of it to schools that have small concentrations of poor children.

But black leaders who pushed for passage of the law three years ago have insisted that the requirement is needed to ensure that the extra state money is spent on the students it is intended to help.

At the urging of the Chicago Urban League, Operation push-excel, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the state board reaffirmed its original support for the law, even though a plan to repeal it had been proposed as part of the board's legislative package.

"Chicago historically and knowingly did not target Title I funds to expressly aid poor children," Gwendolyn LaRoche of the Urban League told the board. "Only by modifying the law to require targeting have Chicago's poor pupils now begun to derive the benefits of the law."

Vol. 01, Issue 20

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