Federal File: A Personal Perspective; Loan Defaulters; Rights Studies Planned

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Terrel H. Bell has been decidedly circumspect about publicly discussing the issue of school desegregation during his tenure as Secretary of Education--until now. The Secretary, who serves in an Administration that officially opposes the mandatory busing of students, made known his personal views in favor of realigning school-district boundaries to create a better racial mix, in interviews this month with The Associated Press and, later, The Washington Post.

"What we have in most big urban centers is a huge ring, a circle that surrounds the city, which is heavily minority, while on the outside, in the suburbs, live the affluent majority. I'd just like to see some of these big, oversized, inner-city school systems broken up and merged with the suburbs," the Secretary was quoted as saying. He did not, however, specifically address the question of transporting students to integrate individual schools.

Mr. Bell used the Detroit school system as an example, saying that the state legislature could redraw the school boundaries to create several integrated districts. A metropolitan busing plan was ordered there by a federal judge, but it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the suburban districts had not been proven responsible for desegregation.

If Michigan legislators were willing, he said, "[the legislature] could establish better school districts that would give a better mix all the way around. There's no reason why the school districts up there have to coincide with the city lines or even the county lines."

Loan Defaulters Beware

Secretary Bell has also made known his views on another subject: students who fail to pay back their federally guaranteed student loans, especially those who subsequently seek federal employment.

Recently, Mr. Bell announced that the Education Department will begin cracking down on loan-defaulters working in the department.

The department, he said, will run a computer crosscheck on employees with its lists of people who have failed to repay their student loans. Those who get caught will be notified that ed will begin deducting what they owe from their paychecks.

Rights Studies Planned

Cynthia G. Brown, who served as the Carter Administration's assistant secretary for civil rights in education, has returned to Washington to found a nonprofit organization that will--among other activities--analyze civil-rights enforcement by the Education Department.

Ms. Brown, who recently completed a year as a federally compensated administrator at the University of Maryland, said her organization--The Equality Center--will study how effective civil-rights laws and activities are in serving low-income, minority, and handicapped students.

The study won't concentrate solely on the Reagan Administration, Ms. Brown said, adding her observation that the Administration "has not been very vigorous in enforcing the laws."--tm and ew

Vol. 02, Issue 03

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