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Calif. Reneges on Civil-Rights Pledge, Groups Tell O.C.R.

Representatives of several civil-rights organizations have asked the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights to withhold its approval of any future federal vocational-education funds earmarked for California until the state has complied with federal anti-discrimination guidelines.

The request was made in a letter delivered last week to Harry M. Singleton, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights, and signed by representatives from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., Equal Rights Advocates Inc., and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Based on documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, the organizations contend that the California Department of Education and the Office of the Chancellor of California Community Colleges "have failed to carry out their enforcement plans for eliminating discrimination in vocational education" as required under an agreement reached with federal officials in 1980. The agreement, which is called "methods of administration," calls for annual on-site reviews of grant recipients at the secondary and post-secondary levels and the collection of data on student enrollment and staffing.

In the letter, the organizations asked Mr. Singleton to take "decisive action" against both the education department and the community colleges' leadership by deferring federal vocational funds to force them to comply with the agreement.

The complaining organzations say that if documents in OCR's possession do not provide an adequate basis for starting enforcement proceedings against the state, "we are requesting that you treat this letter as a complaint" under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Norman J. Chachkin, deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee, said California officials have told the OCR they have been unable to comply with the agreement because of the state's financial problems. But, he noted, "every other state has made an effort to get started" with its compliance agreements.

E.D. Rejects Bond Proposals For Student Loans

Breaking a pattern of routinely approving states' requests for tax-exempt bonds to pay for Guaranteed Student Loans, the U.S. Education Department last month rejected or delayed 23 of 30 applications from states. The applications sought permission for tax-free bond purchases totaling about $2.4 billion.

The department approved tax-free bond measures for only seven of the 30 state applications. Officials rejected four of the applications and demanded more information from states on the other 19 proposals.

According to a department spokesman, the government is reluctant to support the tax-free bonds because it loses revenue from them.

The Congress passed a provision last summer requiring state loan agencies to investigate other sources for funding guaranteed loans besides bonds that lose tax revenue for the government, the spokesman said.

Some observers fear that strict enforcement of the measure will mean that fewer loans will be available.

John Frohlicher, general counsel to the National Council of Higher Education Loan Programs, explained that banks may be reluctant to give out loans if they sense that secondary markets cannot float tax-free bonds to purchase the loans from them.

About one-third of the guaranteed loans, which are now available to students at 8-percent interest, are financed by state loan programs and the remaining two-thirds are financed by the Student Loan Marketing Association (known as "Sallie Mae").

Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell said earlier this month that the loan program will not be threatened by requiring states to seek private lenders before asking the federal government to approve bonds. He said that states could go to the Sallie Mae or to large commercial banks, such as Citibank and Chase Manhattan Bank, to finance many loans.

Vol. 03, Issue 17, Page 2

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