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Kansas City-Area Schools Ask Court To Halt St. Louis Busing Plan

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Eleven school districts in suburbs of Kansas City, Mo., have asked a federal appeals court to halt the St. Louis area's voluntary cross-district desegregation plan, contending that it could imperil their own desegregation case.

In a motion filed on Oct. 6 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, the districts said that the landmark St. Louis plan, if allowed to continue, could compromise their right "to a fair and orderly trial."

The districts also contended that the cost of the St. Louis settlement will "adversely affect the state's financial structure and, consequently, its ability to provide adequately for the education of children ... throughout the state outside of the St. Louis area."

A federal district judge plans to begin hearings on Oct. 31 to determine whether the suburban districts are liable for student segregation in Kansas City. If such a determination is made, the court could order the Kansas City-area districts to adopt a regional desegregation plan similar to the one in St. Louis.

In filing their motion, the districts added their names to the list of Missouri government entities that have contested the manner in which U.S. District Judge William H. Hungate settled the St. Louis dispute last July. (See Education Week, July 27, 1983.)

To date, motions seeking the rejection of all or part of Judge Hungate's order have been filed by the State of Missouri, the St. Louis County government, the City of St. Louis, and a group of black parents from the city.

The main issue raised by the state and suburban districts concerns the state's court-imposed obligation to pick up a substantial portion of the cost of desegregating schools in St. Louis and 23 outlying suburban schools districts.

Under Judge Hungate's order, the state is required to pay 100 percent of the cost of portions of the plan involving both the city and suburban districts, such as magnet schools, student transportation, and faculty desegregation. The city and state will split the cost of court-ordered improvements in the quality of education for students who will continue to attend predominantly black schools in the city.

In papers filed with the Eighth Circuit Court, the state argued that Judge Hungate had overstepped his legal authority when he ordered it to pay for desegregation in St. Louis because it had never been found liable for student segregation in the city or the suburbs.

Suburban Districts Agreed

The suburban Kansas City districts agreed, noting in their motion that the state should have been granted "a fair hearing on interdistrict liability" before being required to pay for a substantial portion of the plan. The districts suggested that the appeals court strike down Judge Hungate's prior orders and send the case back to him for a determination of state liability.

The appeals court is scheduled to consider all motions regarding the St. Louis plan during a hearing on Nov. 14.

Late last month, the court granted a request by the state and blocked the transfer of additional black St. Louis students to the mostly white suburban schools pending next month's hearing. The court, however, allowed the continued transfer of suburban white students to magnet schools in the city. (See Education Week, Oct. 12, 1983.)

State officials estimate that the plan, if upheld, will cost the state about $70 million this year and perhaps as much as $500 million over the next five years.

This week, Gov. Christopher S. Bond will open a special session of the state legislature to consider a tax-increase proposal to help offset the state's costs for the St. Louis plan. State and local officials monitoring the situation said the Governor may ask the legislators to raise the state's corporate tax, as well as other taxes, to bolster the state's fiscal 1984 revenues.

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