E.D. Warns New York City on Racially Imbalanced Faculties

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

The Education Department (ED) has informed New York City's board of education that it has failed to comply with an agreement to improve the racial balance among teachers in the city's public schools. And the federal agency has warned the board that if it cannot meet voluntarily the goals of its five-year-old arrangement with the federal agency, then other steps--including legal action--may be taken, according to an ED spokesman.

In 1977, after being found by the federal government to be in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York City school system agreed on a five-year timetable to hire more minority teachers and to bring the representation of minority teachers in each school into balance with the proportion of minority teachers throughout the school system.

The city's board of education has increased the overall number of black and Hispanic teachers it em-ploys by about 1 percent a year since 1977, according to a spokesman, Robert Terte.

But Mr. Terte said the board has acknowledged that, so far, half of the city's 100 major high schools and "considerably fewer" of its approximately 900 elementary and junior high schools have complied with the 1977 agreement, under which 19 percent of the teachers in each of the city's 32 community school districts and all of its high schools must be minority-group members.

Noncompliance Letter Drafted

A letter informing the board of its noncompliance has been drafted by the Education Department, but reportedly has not been sent, at the request of Senator Alfonse D'Amato, Republican of New York. The Senator was said to be "furious" about the letter and has intervened in the matter.

Mr. D'Amato was scheduled to meet in New York late last week with Chancellor Frank J. Macchiarola, representatives of the board of education, federal education officials, and Deputy Mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr.

The purpose of the meeting, according to Gary L. Lewi, an aide to Mr. D'Amato, is to find a solution to the conflict that avoids the mandatory transfer of teachers, which Mr. Lewi says the Senator finds "totally repugnant."

Title VI offers federal education officials three courses of action against the board of education. They can seek voluntary compliance, they may initiate an administrative hearing leading to the cutoff of federal funds to the city for education, or they may ask the Justice Department to take legal action against the city.

New York City receives more than $300 million in education aid from the federal government annually.

Mr. Terte said the city has failed to meet its deadline because budget cuts and declining enrollments have prohibited the board from hiring the new teachers it says are needed to improve the racial balance among teachers in individual schools.

Mr. Macchiarola has been vehemently opposed to a suggestion from the Education Department's office for civil rights that the city could try to improve the racial balance of its school faculties by paying bonuses to white teachers who volunteer to teach in minority schools.

He has also attacked mandatory transfers of teachers to achieve racially balanced school faculties.

"We are adamantly opposed to mandatory transfers," Mr. Terte said. "Setting up this kind of quota system would create havoc. It would cause wholesale shifts of experienced staff out of schools. And because more black teachers would be transferred, it would cause much more disruption for those it is intended to help--minority students."

City officials estimate that between 3,000 and 6,000 of the school system's 55,000 teachers would have to be transferred to reach the goal for racial balance established in the 1977 agreement.

Vol. 01, Issue 37

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories