Maryland, Virginia and the District stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal aid for school civil rights programs as a result of an impasse between a federal court and the Reagan administration in a complex Chicago schools desegregation fight.
School officials from all three jurisdictions are anxiously awaiting the ruling of a U.S. Court of Appeals following arguments today on a lower court ruling blocking the Department of Education from distributing nearly $300 million. Among the educational programs affected are $250 million in unused student loan money and about $47.5 million in other federal education programs.
Washington area school officials said yesterday that without the frozen federal funds, offices overseeing equal opportunity and desegregation assistance programs would be virtually dismantled. In particular, school officials said programs funded under Title IV of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964--the states' major effort to provide programs to eliminate racial and sex discrimination in the schools--would be hardest hit by the federal freeze. Nearly all Title IV money has been frozen.
Title IV projects in the area include inservice training for teachers on race and sex desegregation, and programs for black history and women's history weeks. Another example was funding of a conference on equal access for women in the math and science fields in Maryland.
V. Wendell Hylton, director of Virginia's office of equal opportunity in the state's education department, said freezing the funds "is disastrous. There is no question civil rights will suffer in this country if the ruling is not overturned."
Hylton said his office, which is funded 100 hundred percent with Title IV funds, stands to lose almost all of the $189,822 in federal aid it had been awarded for race, national origin and sex desegregation programs in the coming school year.
In Maryland, state officials said they face losing $207,000, while in the District $213,102 in Title IV money is at stake.
U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur froze the funds nationwide this summer after he ruled that the Reagan administration had neglected its obligation to help Chicago financially with its federally approved desegregation plan. Congress, in a move to end the impasse, voted to provide $20 million to Chicago, but President Reagan vetoed that appropriation last week, citing constitutional objections. Shadur impounded the funds to ensure that funds for the Chicago desegregation program would be available.
Steve Winneck, a deputy associate general counsel in the Department of Education, yesterday blamed Shadur for creating a crisis in school civil rights offices across the country. He said it is the administration's position that the 1980 desegregation agreement did not commit the federal government to providing specific funds and, furthermore, that the judge did not have the constitutional power to order the federal government to come up with the money.
Some, however, blamed the administration yesterday for the crisis.
"The administration could have done quite a few things to help Chicago out, but it obviously chose not to do so," said Leslie Wolfe, director of the Department of Education's office that carries out the Women's Educational Equity Act. Nearly all the money--$5.76 million--for this program also has been frozen. But Wolfe, whose position was cut this summer when her department was eliminated as a separate office, said the Reagan refusal is indicative of its position on all programs dealing with civil rights. During the last two budget sessions, the Reagan administration unsuccessfully asked for zero funding for both her department and Title IV.