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Officials Plan Further Legal Action in Desegregation Case

December 24, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ Federal officials say they will appeal an order to give the city $88 million by a judge who ruled that the U.S. Department of Education has not paid enough of the cost of desegregating Chicago’s public schools.

″This decision is over-reaching,″ said Wendell Willkie, the education department’s general counsel, after Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Marvin E. Aspen.

″The federal government under present arrangements is meeting its obligations to the Chicago school board under the 1980 consent decree,″ he said.

Willkie added that the school board already has received substantially more in funding and services under the desegregation programs than any other school district in the nation.

Attorneys for the school board and the federal government differed on how much money the city would get under the ruling, but both sides said they had reached an agreement for the board to receive $5.7 million while the ruling is appealed.

″Whatever the amount of funding, it is welcome,″ said Bob Saigh, spokesman for the Board of Education. ″It will be put to good use.″

Aspen’s decision is the latest in a five-year legal battle growing out of a 1980 consent decree entered into by the board and the Justice Department.

In the consent decree, which grew out of a Carter administration lawsuit filed to force the city to desegregate its schools, both parties promised to ″make every good-faith effort to find and provide every available form of financial resource for the desegregation plan.″

Since then, the federal government has contributed $20 million to desegregation programs, while the school board has spent more than $300 million for the same purpose, Saigh said.

Most of the money has been used for transportation and to run ″magnet schools″ to attract students of all ethnic groups by offering special programs.

Of 434,000 students in Chicago’s public schools, 61 percent are black, 21 percent are Hispanic, 16 percent are white and the remainder are Asian and American Indian.

In an opinion issued Oct. 15, Aspen criticized the Reagan administration for ″a change in philosophy (that) apparently includes the belief that promises made by previous administrations need not be honored, and that court orders need not be followed if they condradict prevailing ideology.″

The Justice Department contends it already had fulfilled its obligations to the city for desegregation funding.

Aspen ordered the federal government to pay between $14 million and $17.6 million, and the same amount in each of the next four years, said Hugh McCombs, an attorney for the board.

A Justice Department attorney said the ruling required the government to pay only $8.9 million. McCombs said, however, that the decision enables the city to get the rest of the money by simply making a new application for it.

The board would try to increase the award by filing a petition alleging that the U.S. government willfully violated the consent decree’s terms, McCombs said.

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