Federal File: O.C.R. Chief Sworn In; O'Malley's Optimism; Contract Disputed; More Budget Cuts?

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Remedies for civil-rights violations in education "must be practical and flexible" and must not be of a particular type just because the Education Department's office for civil rights "has always done it that way," according to the office's new chief.

"Discrimination in education is much different today than it was 10 or 20 years ago," said Harry M. Singleton, the assistant secretary for civil rights, at a reception after being sworn into office by a federal judge during a ceremony at the Capitol last week.

"Today, discrimination is much more subtle. We need to look freshly at policies that can effectively deal with problems in the area of civil rights today," he said.

Mr. Singleton also said that "the stories that we've been reading lately in the press" about the Reagan Administration's alleged retrenchment in the area of civil-rights enforcement "are unfounded."

"I wasn't put into place to oversee the dismantling of the ocr," he added.

Competing legislative interests often place lobbyists for national private-school organizations at odds with those for public-school organizations--a situation that has been exacerbated during the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

But one Education Department official says he believes so strongly that the two groups should emphasize their common interests that he has provided them with an opportunity to meet regularly "to talk in a very frank and open manner."

During the past few months, Charles J. O'Malley, the department's executive assistant for private education, has been presiding over two-hour, informal meetings between officials of public-education associations and those representing the spectrum of the private-school community.

The meetings, which have also been attended by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, allow the officials "to uncover the burs under the saddles," through discussions of such divisive issues as tuition tax credits, state regulation of private schools, and teacher certification, Mr. O'Malley said.

At his urging, they have also discussed subjects on which they can more readily agree, such as cooperative ventures in advancing educational technology.

At a meeting scheduled for this Friday, the group of approximately 20 people will "try to identify states in which there is a good relationship between public and private education, such as Pennsylvania and Florida," Mr. O'Malley said. "We hope the organizations [the lobbyists] represent will work to export such a relationship to other states.''

Since its creation in 1976, the National Center for Research in Vocational Education has been housed at Ohio State University. But the university is said to be losing out on the $5.4-million federal contract for the center, in a move by the Reagan Administration that some Congressmen have alleged may be unfair.

In reviewing next year's contract applications--which were submitted only by Ohio State and the University of Tennessee--the Administration did not invite outside experts to give their opinions on the contracts, according to education lobbyists who are monitoring the process. Although the Tennessee institution submitted the lower bid, the cost of transferring the center would outweigh the money saved on the contract, they claimed.

The Education Department is not required to include outside reviewers, although that practice has been followed by previous administrations. In the climate of distrust that has developed between supporters of education on Capitol Hill and the Administration, allegations of unfairness have surfaced.

Representative William F. Goodling of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education, wrote to Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell questioning the need to re-evaluate the Ohio State contract "when Congress gets reports that the national center is doing a great job."

And Ohio's Democratic Senators, Howard M. Metzenbaum and John H. Glenn, have written the Secretary that they are "concerned that factors other than quality and capability are entering into the award process.''

President Reagan and his principal economic aides have begun deliberations on the federal budget for the fiscal year 1984, which begins next October.

Budget cuts are likely to be proposed, given the latest Congressional Budget Office projection that the federal deficit will reach about $180 billion next year.

But where will the cuts come from?

Spokesmen for the President have reiterated his opposition to reducing the national defense budget, even though cuts in that area have been advocated by economic advisers such as David A. Stockman, the budget director. Mr. Reagan is also unlikely to advocate an additional increase in taxes, because of the conservative criticism that followed last year's tax-increase bill.

Observers point out that the so-called "entitlement" programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps, are likely candidates for budget reductions. And the Administration is considered likely to advocate reductions in the education budget, as it did during the past three years.

But education programs won't be alone in the Administration's scramble to reduce the deficit, the observers say. Even eliminating the entire Education Department--a proposal considered unacceptable to most Congressmen--would save less than $15 billion.

--Tom Mirga and Eileen White

Vol. 02, Issue 11

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