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Phoenix To Use Soccer To Desegregate Schools

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Washington--The Justice Department and the Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona agreed last week on a desegregation plan that would use the novel lure of interscholastic soccer to promote racial balance in two new magnet schools.

Under the plan, which is outlined in a consent decree that must be approved by U.S. District Judge C.A. Muecke, two high schools whose enrollments are made up mostly of minority students would be the only ones in the 19,400-student district allowed to offer varsity soccer teams. The sport, which has a limited following in many parts of the country, is said to be extremely popular among Phoenix students.

In addition to regulating the soccer programs, the consent decree3would require Phoenix school officials to identify and implement programs aimed at improving the academic achievement levels of students at the two schools.

Among other things, the plan would require pupil-teacher ratios at the two schools to be significantly lower than those at the district's six other high schools; permit students at the two schools to enroll in as many as six subjects, as compared with a five-subject maximum at other schools; and provide free transportation and free textbooks to students approved for admission to the two schools.

Under the plan, one of the schools would be converted next year into a magnet school offering advanced instruction in computer-related studies. The other would become a mag-net school for the performing arts and television production.

The consent decree also provides for court supervision of the district through the end of the 1988-89 school year. It states that the judge overseeing the case may release the district from supervision without a hearing at that time if the racial composition of the two targeted schools reflects, within 20 percentage points, the racial composition of the district as a whole. Nevertheless, the consent decree states that "failure to achieve the percentages shall not constitute grounds" for denial of a motion to release the district from court supervision.

At present, 54 percent of the district's students are white, 28 percent are Hispanic, 13 percent are black, and the remainder are American Indian or Asian.

The Justice Department became involved in the matter at the recommendation of the Education Department's office for civil rights, which discovered evidence of student segregation during an investigation of the school district.

Maryland District

In another school-desegregation case, a suburban Washington school district recently approved a proposal calling for the establishment of 30 magnet schools, additional funds for 10 predominantly black schools, and selective school closings and attendance-boundary changes to ease4segregation in the district.

The proposal approved by the Prince George's County, Md. school board on May 9 would provide for mandatory student reassignments if the other proposed changes fail to meet the board's desegregation goals.

Spokesmen for the district said the plan would be presented to U.S. District Judge Frank A. Kaufman, who last spring rejected a board proposal that called for the closing of 22 elementary schools.

Judge Kaufman also has before him an alternative plan prepared by a panel of experts headed by Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia. That plan would expand the district's existing busing plan and close 40 schools.--tm

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