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On Diversity Standards

Colleges and Schools overwhelmingly passed a resolution last month in an effort to clear up a dispute with Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander over the association's cultural- diversity standards.

The resolution states that such standards will not be considered mandatory, and that the association, which accredits 505 colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region, will not take action against a college solely on the basis of how it measures up against the diversity standards.

It also indicates that each school should develop its own diversity standards and that they should be consistent with the school's mission.

Secretary Alexander has criticized the use of such standards, saying that they violate academic freedom and impair specialized schools. He delayed federal recognition of Middle States pending a resolution of the issue.

A federal panel advising the Secretary will consider the matter next month.

A department spokesman said department officials will decline comment on the Middle States resolution pending the outcome of next month's meeting.

Court Guarantees Jobs Of Reservists in Training

Military reservists and members of the National Guard on training duty are entitled to unlimited leave and are guaranteed their civilian jobs when they return, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month.

In an 8-to-0 opinion on Dec. 16, Associate Justice David H. Souter said the federal Veterans' Re-Employment Rights Act does not limit the length of time reservists or Guard members may take from their civilian jobs to undergo training. Associate Justice Clarence Thomas did not participate in the decision.

The law requires employers to provide returning reservists with the same seniority, status, pay, and vacation they would have received had they not been absent.

The section of the law at issue in the case, King v. St. Vincent's Hospital (Case No. 90-889), does not apply to those reservists or Guard members called to active duty by the President, such as those involved in the Persian Gulf war. Another section of the same law that expressly guarantees their civilian jobs for at least four years protects those members of the military.

The current High Court case came about after William (Sky) King, an employee at St. Vincent's Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., requested a three-year leave in 1987 to serve as the command sergeant major--the top enlisted member-in the Alabama National Guard.

The hospital denied his request and obtained an order from a federal district judge declaring that the length of the leave was "unreasonable." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit affirmed the district court order in 1990.

But Justice Souter declared that the employee's job is guaranteed because the federal law is "utterly silent about any durational limit on the protection it provides."

The Labor Department will revamp a popular screening test for job applicants and abolish its practice of race-norming the test scores, federal officials announced last month.

Government agencies will continue to use scores on the General Aptitude Test Battery, but the results should not be the sole source for evaluating applicants, the Labor Department said.

About 30 states use the test, which measures cognitive, motor, and numerical skills.

In the past, the Labor Department has ranked scores for minority groups, including blacks and Hispanics, against other minority test takers.

Because the minority applicants typically scored lower on the test, the scoring method effectively raised minority scores, a practice banned under the civil-rights law passed by the Congress last year.

A key architect of the 1990 budget agreement that set spending caps has joined the chorus of Congressional voices asking President Bush to reconsider the agreement in an effort to shift resources from defense to domestic needs.

If such a shift is not made, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, wrote to the President last month, "we will face insurmountable difficulties in fiscal years 1994 and 1995 in meeting the discretionary spending caps."

The act set separate spending caps for defense, domestic, and international spending for fiscal years 1991 through 1993, recombining the categories under one large cap for fiscal years 1994 and 1995.

In his letter, Mr. Byrd said that the projected spending level of $200.4 billion for domestic accounts in fiscal 1994 would fall $14.9 billion, or 6.9 percent, below the baseline. The projected spending level of $204.3 billion for fiscal 1995 would fall $21.9 billion, or 9.7 percent, below the baseline, he said.

"In light of the tremendous backlog of unmet domestic needs in the areas of infrastructure, housing, education, environmental cleanup, health care, and research and development, it is not realistic to expect reductions in domestic discretionary spending," Mr. Byrd said.

The Education Department should restrict eligibility for participation in the Perkins Loan Program in an effort to reduce defaults, the General Accounting Office has suggested.

In a report released last month, the G.A.o. said defaults would decrease if the Perkins program adopted sanctions similar to those used in the Guaranteed Student Loan Program.

Under the department's default reduction initiative, schools are dropped from the C.S.L. program if their default ratios reach a certain threshold.

To make the Perkins program "more financially sound," the report also recommended that the Congress consider:

  • Requiring a 30-day delay of disbursements to first-time borrowers.
  • Requiring schools with high default rates to make pro-rata refunds to borrowers who drop out of school before the end of their enrollment period and to apply the refunds to their loan repayments.
  • Increasing the interest rate on the loans.
  • Charging borrowers a loan-origination fee.

More effective strategies are needed for serving incarcerated youth in compensatory-education programs receiving federal Chapter 1 funding, an Education Department study says.

The report, "Unlocking Learning: Chapter 1 in Correctional Facilities" recommends:

  • Increased coordination between Chapter 1 programs and other education programs operated in the facilities.
  • Improvement in federal guidance on how states and facilities assess student needs and evaluate their progress.
  • Expanding technical assistance on effective teaching techniques.
  • Encouraging the use of program funds for transitional programs that assist participants' return to the community.

The department plans to publish new regulations this year for the programs, which serve youth under 21 who are in correctional facilities and who do not have a high-school diploma or its equivalent.

Copies of the report are available free of charge by writing to the U.S. Education Department, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Room 4049, Washington, D.C. 20202-4110.

Ernest Canellos has been named acting deputy assistant secretary for student financial assistance at the Education Department.

Mr. Canellos replaces Michael J. Farrell, who resigned last month. (See Education Week, Dec. 4 and 11, 1991 .)

Mr. Canellos had served in the acting deputy position before Mr. Farrell was named to the post.

Carolynn Reid-Wallace, the assistant secretary for post- secondary education, said that Mr. Canellos would serve in the position until at least Feb. 1.

Vol. 11, Issue 16, Page 38

Published in Print: January 8, 1992, as Capital Digest
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