Federal News Roundup

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The Justice Department filed suit against Cook County, Ill., school officials last week, charging that they have discriminated against current and former teachers by denying them full use of their sick leave for pregnancy-related disabilities.

The department, in papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, simultaneously proposed a consent decree which, if approved by the court and school officials, would resolve the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the school district violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 by denying teachers disabled by pregnancy between 1979 and 1983 the same paid sick-leave benefits provided to teachers disabled for other reasons.

Under the proposed settlement, the district would agree to pay $15,314 in back pay to 11 current or former teachers. It also includes a provision allowing anyone not bene-fitting from the settlement to submit proof to the court that she was denied the use of her accumulated paid sick leave under the alleged discriminatory policy.

The Justice Department noted that the legal action represented the eighth case brought to enforce the provisions of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act since the Reagan Administration took office.

Nonpublic schools have benefitted substantially in recent years from the federal Chapter 2 block-grant program, according to the National Committee for Citizens in Education, a public-education advocacy group that maintains an information clearinghouse on the three-year-old Chapter 2 program.

Since 1981, private schools' annual share of Chapter 2 funding has been about $40 million annually, the ncce estimates on the basis of data from the Council of Great City Schools, the American Association of School Administrators, and "our own careful reading" of provisions in the Chapter 2 law, according to Anne Henderson, an associate at the ncce.

Ms. Henderson said there are no hard data on how much Chapter 2 aid private schools actually receive because most states do not require districts to report the breakdown of the Chapter 2 spending between public and nonpublic schools.

The year before the Congress adopted the block-grants program, private schools' share of funding for programs now under Chapter 2 was about $16 million, the ncce estimates.

Of the 28 programs consolidated in 1981 under Chapter 2, only Title IV(b) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act allowed aid to private schools.

In the block-grants law, however, permissible aid to private schools was extended to include all of the programs under Chapter 2.

In fiscal 1981, $161 million was appropriated for Title IV(b). Since then, the annual block-grant appropriations have been $450 million to $500 million. And for fiscal 1985, the House of Representatives approved $679 million for Chapter 2.

The General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of the Congress, also is completing a study of the Chapter 2 program. Among other things, the draft version of the report says that local school officials prefer the Chapter 2 program to the programs that preceded it, a gao official said.

Vol. 04, Issue 01

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