There is a pattern to the actions being taken by the Montgomery County Board of Education's five-member majority. Its decisions may result in loss of federal funds for support of integration, a failure to meet the legitimate aspirations of black and other minority parents for their children, a failure to sustain the immense efforts of white and minority citizens to bring about successful integration of down-county communities, and the likelihood that Montgomery will lose its hard-earned reputation as a liberal and tolerant place.
The evidence for this pattern is found in actions like these:
* The board was asked by the superintendent last fall to assign a new Rockville subdivision to a school with a high proportion of minorities. The subdivision residents, virtually all white, wanted to be assigned to a low-minority school. The board's attorney advised following the superintendent's recommendation, but he was ignored. The case is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education.
* The board was told last winter it would lose its funds from the Department of Education for special help for integrated schools. The superintendent corrected the problems, but the schools will still lose half the money and the board has no intention of replacing the funds, with the result that integrated schools will get less support next year.
* The board cut local funds for Head Start by about 10 percent in its fiscal 1982 budget.
* Over the past two years, the board has ignored requests for a review of the success of the two voluntary integration experiments -- one involved busing, one did not -- and has instructed the superintendent to take steps that will dismantle both.
* On two occasions, four board members have secretly prepared materials in violation of the board's own policy. Both secret documents dealt with race relations. In one case, the four asked the president to call off a Department of Education investigation into allegations of unfair disciplinary practices. In the other, they prepared a resolution, prior to a hearing, making it clear that the majority had already made up its mind to keep a racially impacted school open, contrary to the wishes of the school's parents and staff and to the recommendation of the superintendent.
* The board abolished its own Minority Relations Monitoring Committee on the the grounds it had become too "confrontational" -- it had begun to criticize the board for not acting on issues of concern to minorities.
* Black candidates for administrative positions have been criticized and been the subject of split or adverse votes, in contrast to prior board practice and to the way white candidates are treated.
* Board member Marian Greenblatt introduced a resolution asking the county council to prohibit the use of abandoned school sites for low and moderate cost housing.
* On July 14, the board raised the figure -- from 50 to 61 percent -- that triggers consideration of action to reduce the minority percentage through some remedy such as clustering, magnet schools or, possibly, busing. Busing for racial balance now involves less than 2 percent of students, works well and is not the real issue.
* The board has done nothing positive about the education of the poor and minorities. Research on what works in education is never discussed. All the changes made have been mechanical -- for example, more books.
The reason for this pattern of neglect and hostility cannot be to focus on education by eliminating the focus on busing. Clearly the board majority is sending a political message: vote for us and we will protect you from the poor and the black.
These actions must be seen against the rising tide of racial and religious bigotry in the county. The chasm between black and white, poor and affluent is widening. This can only have a negative impact, as political and business leaders are beginning to recognize. This is no longer petty school board politics. It is a pattern that endangers the whole community.