Three Programs Threatened By Chicago Desegregation Dispute
Washington--A rapidly escalating dispute between the Reagan Administration and the Chicago school board over school-desegregation aid to the city apparently is threatening the future of several related and unrelated Education Department programs.
The latest development in the dispute was President Reagan's veto last week of a $20-million measure designed by the Congress to help settle the impasse.
In refusing to sign the measure, the President set the stage for a federal appeals court hearing this week to determine whether a federal district judge violated the Constitutional principle of separation of powers when he ordered the Administration on June 30 to freeze $47.5 million in Education Department funds, pending the federal government's payment of at least $14.6 million to the school district. (See Education Week, Aug. 17, 1983.)
The funds frozen by U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur are earmarked for the Secretary of Education's discretionary fund, Title IV, women's educational equity programs, Follow Through, special assistance to the Virgin Islands, and territorial teacher-training programs.
Judge Shadur's original order suspended all funding for the programs, but he subsequently allowed them to continue functioning under grants that have been prorated through Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. Lawyers familiar with the case generally agree that his order could be extended into fiscal 1984.
The funding blockage has been a matter of great concern particularly to the directors of the state- and university-operated desegregation-assistance centers authorized under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The center directors claim that the freeze has upset their ability to make long-range plans and already has caused some of their staff members to begin looking for other jobs.
According to a survey of 30 state Title IV programs conducted by Michael J. Alves, project director for desegregation assistance in the Massachusetts Department of Education, 97 percent of all of the programs' employees will be subject to layoffs or reassignment if Judge Shadur's order is not stayed or overturned by Oct. 1.
"It's debilitating to work in an atmosphere of such apprehension and uncertainty," Mr. Alves said. "You cannot expect people to function normally day in and day out when they have no assurance that their jobs will still be there after Oct. 1."
"Our understanding is that, at present, we have no future beyond Oct. 1," added Gordon Foster, director of the desegregation-assistance center based at the University of Miami.
On June 30, Mr. Foster was required by university regulations to send termination notices to the center's employees because it appeared that the center's funding was about to be cut off. Since that time, the center's funding has been temporarily extended twice under the terms of Judge Shadur's revised orders--once until Aug. 15 and once until Sept. 30--and the employees have been allowed to remain on the job.
"But some of our staff members have already started hunting for jobs," he pointed out. "It's also impossible to make any long-term commitments despite the fact that we have a lot of unfinished business."
The freeze has also affected the operations of the National Diffusion Network (ndn) and the Women's Educational Equity Act (weea) program, according to their directors.
The funding freeze has prevented his office from awarding 24 grants since June 30, said Lee E. Wickline, director of the ndn The funds would have gone to the developers of "exemplary" curricula, enabling them to help teachers adopt their methods.
"All of these programs are in serious trouble," Mr. Wickline said. "Some of these people have been forced to leave their projects and to go back to classroom teaching jobs."
The ndn currently plans to award 115 grants during the upcoming fiscal year, he added. "All this work would come to a screeching halt if the freeze is continued."
Leslie Wolfe, director of the weea program, said the freeze has not affected her office yet, but could if it is not lifted by the end of next month.
"Our grants are scheduled to be mailed out on Oct. 1," she said. "If the funds remain frozen, then we have a problem."
Before vetoing the emergency spending bill last week, President Reagan noted that "the Constitution and its process of separated powers and checks and balances does not permit the judiciary to determine spending priorities or to reallocate funds appropriated by Congress."
"[I] believe that the better course is to seek the swift reversal of the district court's order," he said.
Mr. Reagan also said the government will pay the money mandated by Judge Shadur if the judge's decision is upheld by the appeals court. But he added that "it is inappropriate ... for a court to withold millions of dollars' worth of unrelated and necessary education programs to enforce its orders."
Judge Shadur froze the federal funds and ordered the $14.6-million payment to Chicago after determining that the Administration had failed to live up to a commitment outlined in a consent decree that he approved on Jan. 6. The decree obligates both the Administration and the Chicago school board "to make every good faith effort" to finance the desegregation plan.
The Chicago school board has already spent approximately $120 million on the plan and estimates that it may need $250 million over the next five years to implement all of the plan's components.
Approximately $66.9 million of the district's proposed fiscal 1984 budget of $1.48 billion is earmarked for school-desegregation activities.
The vetoed bill, sponsored by Representative Sidney R. Yates, Democrat of Illinois, would have authorized the Education Department to spend $20 million in funds earmarked for the Guaranteed Student Loan program in order to comply with Judge Shadur's order.
The Congress will be officially informed of the President's veto on Sept. 12, the day that it reconvenes. "It is very likely" that Representative Yates will ask his colleagues in the House and Senate to override the veto, a spokesman for the Congressman said last week.
The President's contention that Judge Shadur's order violates the Constitution "turns the concept of separation of powers on its head," said said Robert C. Howard, the lawyer representing the Chicago school board in its lawsuit against the government.
He added: "We believe that the doctrine of separation of powers also includes the concept of checks and balances. The government cannot ignore a court order or a consent decree. Under the doctrine of checks and balances, it is the duty of the judiciary to enforce a binding obligation on the executive branch."
In his defense, he cited the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison. In that case, the Court ruled that the federal government is "a government of laws and not of men" and that it would cease to deserve that appellation "if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right. It is the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is."
Mr. Howard added that "the President frustrated the intent of Congress not only to provide desegregation assistance to Chicago, but also its intent to cause the release of $20 million in aid" to the programs that have been affected by the federal funding freeze.
He said that on Aug. 4 the board filed papers with Judge Shadur and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit "suggesting" that if President Reagan signed the $20-million appropriations bill, it might be appropriate for the courts to release $20 million from the amount that was frozen on June 30.