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Denver Plaintiffs Ask U.S. Judge To Continue Busing Plan

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Denver--An alternative to the Denver School Board's "Total Access Plan" to end a 13-year-old desegregation suit was presented last week to U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch.

The alternative proposed by plaintiffs in the case was similar to a plan developed last year by an ad hoc committee of the school board, in that both call for continued mandatory busing to achieve school desegregation. The board's so-called "consensus" plan had been submitted to Judge Matsch last November along with the open-enrollment proposal.

At that time, however, the judge refused to choose between the two and ordered the board to select one. A majority of the board adopted the "total-access" proposal, which combines open enrollment with magnet schools.

In presenting the board majority's plan to Judge Matsch in the second week of a for-mal hearing, school officials acknowledged that it was an educational plan and not a school-desegregation proposal. Testimony supporting the plan included admissions that it could lead to "resegregation."

For example, Mario D. Fantini, dean of education at the University of Massachusetts, urged adoption of the "total-access" concept because it would permit children and their parents to choose among a variety of educational environments. However, in response to questions from Judge Matsch, Mr. Fantini conceded that the plan could result in numerous segregated, neighborhood schools.

Magnet Schools Lose 'Magnetism'

Opponents of the total-access proposal testified that without mandatory busing, open-enrollment, and magnet-school plans usually result in segregated schools.

"When you lose a court order, magnet schools lose their magnetism," said Michael Stollee, dean of education at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and one of the "expert witnesses" for the plaintiffs.

Willis D. Hawley, dean of the George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University, said voluntary desegregation plans, such as the Denver board's proposal, do not work in school systems where minorities make up more than 30 percent of the total enrollment. About 60 percent of Denver's 60,000 pupils are members of minority groups, primarily black and Hispanic.

Gary Orfield, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, said metropolitan housing patterns will hinder voluntary school desegregation for at least two or three more generations. During that time, he recommended, courts should retain some control over urban school enrollments.

The alternative plan presented to Judge Matsch by the parents who were the original plaintiffs when the suit was filed 13 years ago would retain mandatory busing. A ruling is expected within 30 days.

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