Federal civil rights officials and the State of Virginia have reached a new college desegregation agreement intended to prevent the cutoff of more than $75 million in annual U.S. education aid to the state, it was announced today.
The agreement, reached on the eve of a deadline for beginning aid cutoff proceedings, could end 10 years of controversy between the state and federal government over desegregation of Virginia colleges.
However, before Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr. can take final action on the plan, it must be submitted to black plaintiffs who successfully challenged earlier federal approval of Virginia's desegregation plans.
This latest accord between the state and HEW deals with earlier federal objections to duplication of programs of two Norfolk schools, predominantly black Norfolk State College and predominantly white Old Dominion University. HEW contended that program duplications at the schools, only three miles apart, tended to perpetuate segregation by inducing black students to take the courses at Norfolk State and white students to take them at ODU.
Virginia Secretary of Education J. Wade Gilley said the resolution of the duplication issue "represents a compromise" between state officials and HEW negotiators. Gilley said HEW wanted Virginia to eliminate half the duplicated programs at each school, but agreed in the end to a complex plan that includes not only program eliminations but also specialization of existing courses and arrangements with predominantly white, two-year community colleges, that are intended to attract their graduates to Norfolk State.
Gilles said that by 1982 about two-thirds of the programs at Norfolk State will be unavailable at other Norfolk area schools, thus helping Norfolk State attract white students.
Failure to resolve the duplication issues last fall undid a desegregation agreement that was announced with fanfare last March. Gov. John N. Dalton pressed the Norfolk schools to agree to an acceptable plan but ran into opposition from generally autonomous school officials and from political conservatives.
At one point, he said he would defend the schools in court if an agreement with HEW could not be reached. Former governor Mills E. Godwin had rejected most of the elements of the desegration plan approved by Dalton, saying they amounted to the imposition of racial quotas on college enrollments. He vowed to fight the federal agency in court.