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An attorney representing four school-improvement programs that once received dissemination grants from the National Diffusion Network (ndn) says his clients intend to appeal a federal district judge's ruling that validated the cutoff of their funding.

Jonathan I. Epstein, who represented the plaintiffs in Holistic Learning Resources v. Bell, says that his clients will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia to overturn U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise's June 30 decision that Donald J. Senese, the Education Department's assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, had the legal right to discontinue the programs' grants because he found that the programs were no longer "in the best interest of the federal government."

Officials of the four programs suing ed contend, in part, that Mr. Senese's action was "arbitrary and capricious," in violation of federal regulations governing the administration of educational grants, and inconsistent with their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion.

However, Judge Debevoise of Trenton, N.J., ruled that Mr. Senese's action was not reviewable by the court because ndn funding is a matter of absolute discretion for the Secretary of Education and his functionaries, Mr. Epstein explains.

"We feel that he made a legal error by deciding not to rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' claim, by not examining if Senese's action was arbitrary and capricious," he says.

The Education Department has repealed its regulation prohibiting discriminatory school dress codes, saying that the development and enforcement of dress codes is an issue for local determination.

The repealed regulations--issued in 1975 under Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments--prohibited recipients of federal education funds from using sex as a basis to "discriminate against persons in the application of rules of appearance."

Controversy surrounding the Reagan Administration's proposal to extend the number of hours 14- and 15-year-olds can work and the types of jobs they can perform was deferred in early August when the Labor Department extended the comment period for the proposed rules by six months.

The suggested changes in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act would: extend from three to four hours the length of time the teen-agers are permitted to work while school is in session; extend the work week from 18 to 24 hours; and extend the end of the work day from 7 to 9 P.M. (and 10 P.M. on nights preceding weekends and holidays).

Currently, an estimated 915,000 14- and 15-year-olds work during the school year.

The proposals would also ease restrictions on certain tasks now considered too hazardous for these students, in fields such as food processing, laundering, and warehousing. The proposals have encountered some strong opposition, particularly in hearings before the House Subcommittee on Labor Standards chaired by Representative George Miller, Democrat of California. Mr. Miller has introduced a resolution to stop the proposals.

He and other opponents of the changes say they are unnecessary at a time of high unemployment among teen-agers and adults; the changes would also contribute to academic troubles and delinquency among teen-agers, they say.

Robert B. Collyer, deputy undersecretary of labor for employment standards, said in a letter to Mr. Miller that the Administration was extending the comment period for six months and would submit "new" rules later.

Comments on the proposed rules may be sent to: William M. Otter, Administrator, Wage and Hour Division, Frances Perkins Department of Labor Building, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, (202) 523-7478.

In Hawaii, a bill passed by the legislature to penalize the federal government for cuts in impact aid was vetoed in late June by Gov. George R. Ariyoshi.

The bill stated that no state or local tax revenues could be used to educate "federally connected" children if the federal government's contribution fell below 50 percent of the state's cost in educating such children.

A "federally connected student" was defined in the bill as a child who resides on federal property or with a parent who is in the armed services and is not a resident of the state.

About 19 percent of Hawaii's students are eligible for "A" impact-aid payments, which go to offset the costs of educating children whose parents live and work on federal property.

Neil Abercrombie, chairman of the Senate education committee and sponsor of the bill, has estimated that the federal government's share during the 1982-83 school year should be $25 million, but he expects the state to receive less than $10 million from the government.

Mr. Abercrombie said he has urged Hawaii's Congressional delegation to support shifting responsibility for impact aid from the Education Department to the Department of Defense.

Seven Texas school districts whose bilingual-education programs have been criticized by Education Department auditors recently received support in their efforts to contest the audits from members of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

At a Capitol Hill hearing on July 29, the committee chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, claimed that the auditors had acted improperly in finding that the school districts had "misspent" federal bilingual-education funds and in requesting that the districts return a total of about $6 million to the government.

Representative Perkins questioned the criteria used by the auditors, since the school districts' bilingual programs previously had been approved by the department's office of bilingual education. The auditors were "completely ignorant of the program in general and ignored the regulations from top to bottom," Mr. Perkins charged.

James B. Thomas Jr., the department's inspector general, defended the Texas audits at the hearing. He asserted that the auditors were highly trained and were familiar with bilingual programs.

Officials of the school districts--Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Edgewood, Edinburg, Harlingen, and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo--said they had requested the Congressional hearing on the auditing process because their bilingual programs would be in jeopardy if they had to return the funds. They have also threatened to sue the department to fight the audits, and Representative Perkins threatened at the hearing to introduce a bill that would nullify the auditors' findings.

Responding to a bill introduced by a Florida Congressman to provide federal funds to educate students in the principles of good citizenship, the House Committee on Education and Labor recently voted to include "citizenship education" in the new education block-grants program.

Representative Charles E. Bennett, a Democrat, had proposed a $5-million program of grants to schools to alleviate what he described as a ''lack of knowledge and a lack of practice of the principles of good citizenship."

But committee members, led by Chairman Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky, cited pressure to hold down the federal deficit as their reason for recommending instead that the program be added to the list of approximately 30 other programs that schools may initiate with their block-grants funds. No date has been set for consideration by the full House.

Vol. 01, Issue 40

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