Approximately 75 Prince George's County school employees received termination notices this week following an apparent decision by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare not to provide the county school system with nearly $2 million in government funds, a school spokesman said.
An additional 33 staff members have been notified that they will be transferred from their federally funded positions to other jobs, said John R. Aubuchon, school spokesman.
This decision, according to Aubuchon, comes on the heels of HEW's decision not to approve the school system's application for Emergency School Aid Act funding (ESAA).
An HEW spokesman said the department of education is with-holding federal funding of ESAA programs in Prince George's County because there is "some evidence" that indicates the county school system discriminates against students whose first language is not English.
The charges, which are unrelated to the school system's use of ESAA funds, are based upon HEW findings that the school system has not provided HEW with adequate figures on the number of foreign-speaking students in the school system and has failed to promote such students equitably, the spokesman said.
HEW, which often uses it federally funded programs as a wedge for compliance by school systems, is requesting additional data from the county school system before making a final decision whether to fund the county's ESAA programs.
Both Edward J. Feeney, superintendent of schools, and the board of education have denied that school system has discriminated against foreign speaking students.
However, Feeney made the announcement last week to terminate the employees, pending a decision by HEW, because he said it would be unfair not to let them know how the situation currently stands.
"Lacking any substantive indication that our Fiscal Year 1978 application for more than $1.9 million in funds will be approved . . . we have no choice but to send appropriate notification to the employees who will be affected," Feeney said.
In the letter to the employees, Feeney said that if federal funding is made available for the coming year, that they will be immediately notified and offered reemployment.
The county school board learned earlier this month that the ESAA funds might be in jeopardy and instructed the superintendent of school to respond to questions that HEW directed to the school system.
In the response, the superintendent of schools indicated that the school system was not discriminating against foreign speaking students and that the school had complied with the original request of HEW in what it thought was the proper way.
According to school attorney Paul Nussbaum, the school system's response to one of the questions concerning promotion of students may have been misunderstood by HEW resulting in the charge of discrimination. Nussbaum said a school system's response to a question about promotion of foreign speaking students concerned "levels of achievement," not levels of promotion.
Nussbaum also said that the question of adequate figures for the number of foreign speaking students in the school system remained unanswered because HEW would not accept the figures the county provided.
Nussbaum said the figures the school system currently maintain do not follow the HEW guidelines. He said that the school system tried to comply with the HEW guidelines by sending the information home with students. He said the students took the forms home and "played a joke on the school system." He said the students entered false responses on the forms.
The Emergency School Aid Act is designed to help school systems which have undergone desegregation. The county school system ESAA programs, which have been touted by HEW itself, serve more than half of the school system's 144,00 students, Aubuchon said.