Excerpts From the Chavez Memorandum to the Civil-Rights Commission

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Following are excerpts from the Jan. 4 memorandum prepared by staff director Linda Chavez for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that are directly related to education.

Memorandum To Commissioners

From: Linda Chavez

Subject: Program


For FY 1984

Programs for 1984 and 1985 were previously adopted by the Civil Rights Commission at its 1983 planning meeting. The new commission, however, must decide which of the larger-scale projects to continue and in what form and which new projects to initiate. Following is a brief summary of each approved FY 1984 project and my recommendation for commission action. I have also included a few items that you may want to consider as new projects. A detailed discussion of the program for 1984 and new initiatives will occupy most of Monday's agenda.

For those of you new to the commission, projects generally take the form of hearings, written reports, or consultations. Reports can be researched and written by commission staff or by outside contractors. Formal hearings, which include the issuance of subpoenas and the use of sworn testimony, entail temporary assignment of staff to the hearing location for a period of four to six weeks and are usually followed by the issuance of a commission report with or without recommendations. Consultations allow commissioners to hear the views of experts and scholars in a given field who present papers that are later published by the commission. Commission reports or projects on critical issues sometimes follow such consultations. While the commission may decide new formats for its work, these have proved useful in the past. ...

2. Use of Voluntary Methods of Achieving School Desegregation.

The commission's past policy has been to endorse mandatory busing to achieve desegregation. The new commission may wish to reassess this policy, and a study on voluntary desegregation could set the stage for such action. As currently planned, the project would include a literature review and on-site visits by staff. Voluntary desegregation can encompass busing as well as such alternatives as magnet schools, open enrollment, special attendance schools, and other methods.

Recommendation: The commission can conduct a study to review desegregation of elementary and secondary schools in order to ascertain which techniques actually promote or achieve integration, for how long, and with what other effects on the communities involved. The study would include a literature review and would concentrate on selected city experiences with possible on-site visits by project staff. ...

6. Student Financial Assistance

As presently conceived, this project would study the effects of reduction in student aid on predominantly minority institutions. Six predominantly black colleges and three predominantly Hispanic are the focus of the study. Inherent in the design of this project is an assumption that equal educational opportunity does not simply entail non-discrimination in college admissions. Some affirmative responsibility on the part of the federal government to make college affordable to minority students is also envisioned as part of the equal opportunity responsibility.

Recommendation: The commission cancel this project. The jurisdiction of the commission is to study discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and handicap. Unless the commission wishes to establish that federal student-financial aid is a civil right guaranteed to members of minority groups, this project would appear clearly beyond our jurisdiction.

7. Segregation of Hispanic Students

Several studies in the last year have noted increasing isolation of Hispanic students in public schools. Despite data that suggest that Hispanic students are more isolated in schools today than they were in 1968, little has been written that identifies the reasons for this growing phenomenon. The commission had planned to conduct a study consisting of a literature review and an analysis of the possible causes of this ethnic isolation. In addition, a field study of selected sites would be undertaken and a report issued.

Recommendation: Initiate the commission study with a one-day consultation in a city with high Hispanic concentration. Special emphasis should be paid in the design of the project to the possible role of programs such as bilingual education in the increasing isolation of Hispanics, particularly within schools. ...

10. State and Local Civil-Rights Enforcement

This project would assess the role of state agencies with civil-rights responsibilities in the enforcement of civil rights protected under federal laws. The resulting report would evaluate the states' enforcement efforts and, based on this evaluation, would make recommendations to the Executive and Congress on what the future role of these agencies should be.

Recommendation: The commission not commit itself to such an ambitious project without a preliminary feasibility study. A more limited project that still addresses the general concern of this program may be more feasible. ...

12. Social Indicators Report

The old commission planned to update in 1984 the Social Indicators of Equality for Minorities and Women Report, which was published in 1978. The original study examined the rate of progress of various groups on a range of indices of "quality of life," including educational achievement, employment, and median income.

The underlying assumption was that equality of opportunity would naturally translate itself into equality of results. Thus disparities in results were "indicators" of the extent to which minorities, women, and other disadvantaged groups were still being denied equal opportunity.

Recommendation: Proceed with the update with modifications. The original premise confuses two very different concepts: equality of opportunity and equality of results. The commission study should examine what factors in addition to discrimination may account for disparities in income, education, and other status indicators.

New Program Suggestions 1. Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Critics and advocates of affirmative action alike seem to have little knowledge of what long-term effects these programs have had on either the enrollment and retention of minority students and faculty or on the programs and curriculum of the university. A general decline in academic standards coincided with the advent of affirmative action in higher education. No empirical assessment has been made, however, of whether this decline in standards was in any way related to efforts to broaden opportunity for minorities, nor has an analysis been done of what techniques universities employ to increase minority representation among their student bodies or faculties and which of these techniques are most successful and most equitable.

Recommendation: The commission undertake a major study of affirmative action in higher education in both hiring and enrollment. The study could begin with a two-day consultation that would focus on recruiting and retention of minority students and on the effects of affirmative action on academic standards, recruiting minority faculty, and tenure rights.

2. Comparable Worth

The notion that equal pay should be given not only for equal work but for work deemed comparable in value may emerge as the most important civil-rights issue in the 1980's. A recent Washington state [court] decision awarded back pay to women state employees in so-called traditional female jobs because their wages were not comparable to those in other jobs in traditional male categories. The basis for the award rested in part on a state-funded study that some jobs held primarily by women required similar skills and training to those held primarily by men but were substantially less well paid. Other states are facing the same issues, and similar cases are pending in various places. Several states have enacted comparable-worth legislation. The principle that underlies comparable worth is a fundamentally radical one that would alter our existing marketplace economy.

Recommendation: The commission hold a two-day consultation to explore the comparable-worth issue, its effect on employee-employer relationships, collective bargaining, the economy, and public versus private employment.

Vol. 03, Issue 17, Pages 11, 18

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