Five civil rights groups have asked a federal district judge to declare three pieces of anti-busing legislation unconstitutional.
The groups argued that the measures, all riders attached to appropriations bills, effectively strip the Department of Health. Education and Welfare of its duties to enforce school desegregation efforts and force it to illegally supply federal education aid to segregated school districts.
The latest and toughest of the ridders, the Eagleton-Biden amendment was signed into law Friday by President Carter as part of the Labor-HEW appropriations bill.
The suit is an attempt to force HEW to assume a more activist role in school desegregation efforts. It argues that the busing of students is frequently necessary to desegregate schools.
Civil rights laws prohibit the government from providing federal funds to segregated schools and until 1969 HEW, by withholding government money, forced scores of school districts most in the South to desegregate. But the Nixon and Ford administrations didn't use this authority and almost all busing in recent years has taken place under court orders which are notaffected by the anti-busing riders.
Seventeen segregated school districts including those in Baltimore and Kansas City, Mo., now receive federal education funds, the suit charges.
Those filing the suit included the NAACP, the Mexican American Defense and Education Fund Inc. the Puerto Rican Legal Defence and Education Fund Inc. and the Center for National Policy Review at Catholic University.