President Reagan intends to endorse a controversial bill that would partly reverse a Supreme Court ruling limiting the government's authority to cut off funds to educational institutions that discriminate, White House sources said yesterday.
Similar but broader legislation passed the House last year but died in the Senate, where the Reagan administration gave it mixed support. Leaders of civil rights groups complained yesterday that the new bill endorsed by the White House does not go far enough, because it addresses discrimination only by educational institutions -- not other institutions or organizations such as hospitals that also receive federal funds.
The bill is in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last year in a case involving Grove City College. The ruling said that under 1972 legislation banning sex discrimination by educational institutions, the government could cut off funds only to specific programs that failed to meet federal standards and not to the entire institution.
Under the latest version of the bill, the government would be authorized to cut off funds to an educational institution that discriminates on any basis -- sex, age, race, or physical handicap -- even if the discrimination was found in a program not funded by the government, according to Justice Department spokesman Judith Pond.
Sources said it is expected that the bill will be introduced by Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.); aides to Dole said they could not comment.
"This is a very deficient proposal," said Ralph Neas of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an umbrella organization of 165 civil rights groups. "It would leave millions of women, minorities, disabled persons and senior citizens unprotected by our civil rights laws."
Marsha Greenberger of the National Women's Law Center said she is reluctant to comment on a bill that hasn't been introduced. But she said that if the bill is to be limited to educational institutions, it would not override the Supreme Court decision.
"They the Justice Department said themselves that this Supreme Court decision applies outside of education, so how can they override the effects of that decision if they don't go beyond education?" Greenberger asked.
After the decision, William Bradford Reynolds, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, had said the court's reasoning could be applied to statutes that prohibit other kinds of discrimination by recipients of federal funds.
Yesterday Reynolds said of the proposed bill, "The administration supported the compromise bill introduced by Senator Dole and agreed to by a number of senators at the end of the 98th Congress as a responsible and fully adequate legislative answer to the stated concerns with the Grove City decision. There has been no change in that position."
Meanwhile, House members plan to introduce a bill known as the Civil Rights Act of 1985 that would cover discrimination in all institutions that receive federal funds, not just educational institutions. The bill will be similar to the one the House passed last year.
The House bill has support among many senators, according to Bob Mann, spokesman for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "We are pleased that Majority Leader Dole feels civil rights legislation is a priority issue," he added. "But at the same time we intend to work with him and other members toward legislation broader" than the version endorsed by the White House.