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School officials in Dade County (Miami), Fla., reacted first with anger, but then with promises of reform, to a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that sharply criticized the quality of the education offered to minority students in the district.

The commission's report, officially issued early this month but "leaked" to the press last month (see Education Week, May 12, 1982), said that education in Dade County "no longer is perceived as the ultimate equalizer," primarily because the incomplete desegregation of county schools leaves thousands of black students in dilapidated, ill-equipped inner-city schools.

Soon after the report's contents became public in May, Dade County Superintendent Leonard Britton criticized the commission for using "outdated information" and for relying on the testimony of "witnesses who were not always fully knowledgeable to respond."

"Much of the report is based on testimony taken out of context," he said in a letter to the commission after the release of the report. ''While some points are correct, much is responded to in cliches, on obviously limited information, and with an overly dramatic tone."

But by last week, Mr. Britton's tone had softened; at a meeting, he told the school board that it would be "a waste of time" to continue criticizing the report."

"Many of the recommendations relate very clearly and adequately to our needs, especially in vocational education," he said.

The commission found that "minority students must make do with the inner-city schools' outdated and dilapidated equipment."

That finding matches criticism in a yearlong study, prepared by a committee of local employers and released in April, of Dade County's vocational-education program.

Responding to the two studies, Mr. Britton persuaded board members to pass unanimously a resolution reaffirming a 1973 policy that vocational education in the district should be equal in quality to classes for college-bound students.

The board voted to appoint a special committee to study the two critical reports and to make recommendations on improving vocational-education classes.

The superintendent also announced that the school system will spend $2.5 million in the coming year to update vocational-training equipment. To meet all the needs for such equipment would cost $20 million to $30 million, he said.

The federal courts' involvement in the desegregation of the Jackson, Miss., schools has ended.

Fred L. Banks Jr., the lawyer representing the black parents who filed the discrimination suit in 1963, said that the plaintiffs would not appeal a U.S. district judge's 1981 order declaring the school system "unitary." An agreement to that effect was filed this month with the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Mr. Banks said.

Busing in Jackson began in 1970, when about half of the district's students were white and half were black. Today, Mr. Banks said, nearly 70 percent of the city's 33,000 students are black.

The agreement will not mean that the district can stop transporting students for racial balance, Mr. Banks said. Rather, it means that school officials can stop making frequent adjustments to attendance boundaries in order to compensate for changing residential patterns.

The plaintiffs intend "to step up the monitoring" of the schools to ensure equity, he added.

New York City has spent more than $250,000 in legal fees in its battle against a 1979 federal-court decision ordering the city to improve its programs for handicapped children, and the figure could go as high as $1 million, according to school officials.

Three years ago, U.S. District Judge Eugene H. Nickerson found that thousands of handicapped students were not being properly educated and ordered the board to speed up the evaluation and placement of these students.

The legal fees the city has spent fighting Judge Nickerson's decision include $211,000 for the two lawyers who represent the plaintiffs in the case, which has come to be known as Jose P., after one of the students involved.

The city has been forced by federal civil-rights legislation to pay the legal fees of its opponents in the case. Under the legislation, the city pays 80 percent of the plaintiffs' legal fees, and the state pays 20 percent.

In addition, two of the board's lawyers and three assistants from the city's Corporation Counsel have been assigned to the case. And the city school board has hired, but not yet paid, outside legal counsel.

School officials have said that they expect a request for another $600,000 from the plaintiffs' lawyers to cover their fees through last January. However, both sides expect this figure to be reduced through negotiation.

Vol. 01, Issue 39

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