Education secretary on `parochiaid' ruling

Secretary of Education William J. Bennett Tuesday blasted a new US Supreme Court ruling that withholds public school aid from parochial schools. ``It was a terrible decision'' that displayed a ``fastidious disdain of religion,'' Mr. Bennett said of Monday's ruling. The decision blocked two public school systems, in New York City and in Grand Rapids, Mich., from sending remedial-education teachers to parochial schools to provide instruction.

Some critics of the court decision say the administration should try to overhaul the $3.2 billion federal program of remedial instruction for impoverished children, known as Chapter I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Chapter I funds supported the New York program struck down by the Supreme Court. The Michigan program was state-subsidized.

Department of Education officials say the ruling is leading the administration to consider replacing Chapter I, under which federal funds are earmarked to support public-system activities in parochial schools. Instead, the administration wants to provide tax rebates to parents so they can hire their own tutors for their children.

Replacing Chapter I would require congressional approval, which would be difficult to obtain at this time.

The ruling has been widely applauded by advocates of church-state separation and criticized by administration supporters. Both sides agree, however, that the court decision will not be the last word on the subject.

Hundreds of school systems support programs to provide public-school teachers for remedial instruction in parochial schools, though many districts require parochial-school students to attend remedial classes on public-school grounds.

Bennett also defended Reagan administration policies to support private education, saying they would help ease demand for public-education funds. Parochial schools are ``closer to the ideal of a melting pot than a public school,'' he said, explaining why the White House wants to give tuition tax credits to parents of parochial schoolchildren.

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