Cities News Roundup
For the first time in six years, school officials in New York City say they have provided enough classes for all of the city's eligible handicapped students.
After hiring 1,100 special-education teachers this year, administrators in the city's schools have been able to place 19,409 students who had been evaluated, but not assigned to programs, under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 Act, the federal law that mandates the classes.
However, 1,300 students still have not been evaluated, according to school officials. Eight hundred of them have been on the waiting list longer than the 30 days permitted under the law.
New York City's continued failure to evaluate and place the handicapped promptly has resulted in a number of lawsuits, and has elicited harsh criticism and an undercover investigation from the state education department.
About 10 percent of the city's 904,000 students are classified as handicapped. The city's board of education spends approximately 10 percent of its $3.4-billion budget on special education.
Only one week after a federal judge ordered that girls be admitted to a residential alternative high school in Passaic, N.J., the school board voted to close the school entirely.
Allison McCoy, assistant superintendent of the Passaic school system, said that the decision to close the school was not a direct response to the ruling, but was prompted by the same considerations that led to the boys-only admissions policy: fi-nancial difficulties.
The Long Pine Lake Alternative High School offered after-school apprenticeships, naval science, and Navy officer-training programs to about 60 students. The school has admitted young women for two of the four years that it has been in operation, Mr. McCoy said.
But because of a budget crunch that limited their ability to pay supervisors and to operate a girls' dormitory, school officials decided this year to admit boys only, and 15 girls were not allowed to return.
In early September, a U.S. district judge ruled that Deborah Wright, 16 years old, be readmitted to the school in order to complete the officer-training program and that the school district review the cases of the other girls who were excluded.
The school board voted on Sept. 13 to shut down the school immediately; the students have returned to the town's regular high school, Mr. McCoy said.
Jeffrey Fogel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which represented Ms. Wright, said, "There's really nothing we can do about [the closing]."
"We feel bad that the result of our litigation was the closing of that school," Mr. Fogel said. "That wasn't our intent at all. Our intent was to preserve it and make it viable. But it's intolerable to run a dual school system, whether it's black kids and white kids, boys and girls, or Jewish kids and gentile kids."
While Mr. Fogel said he sees no way to reverse the school board's decision to close the school, he may seek damages on Ms. Wright's behalf.
Jerome Van Gorkom, the controversial chairman of the Chicago School Finance Authority, has been nominated by President Reagan for a high management post in the U.S. State Department.
Mr. Van Gorkom, who has led the battle for financial reform of the Chicago public schools and is considered one of the most powerful people in the city, was nominated for the position of undersecretary of state for management.
He was chosen in 1980 by Gov. James R. Thompson and Chicago Mayor Jane M. Byrne to head the five-member authority created by the state to oversee the school district's finances.
Recently, he was criticized by both the mayor and the Chicago Teachers' Union for delaying approval of the district's 1983 budget, without which negotiations for a new teachers' contract could not be ratified.
Mr. Van Gorkom, 65 years old, has been reluctant to discuss his new position or to specify when he plans to leave the finance authority until the Senate completes the confirmation process.
But he has said that a longstanding association with Secretary of State George Schultz prompted him to accept the offer.
"I have great respect for George Schultz," he said. "When he asked me if I would take this job, I willingly consented because I want to be helpful to him in what I consider to be a very important and difficult job."
Vol. 02, Issue 04