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Seattle Plan Would Reduce Busing

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The superintendent of the Seattle public schools has proposed a new desegregation plan for the 44,000-student district that would halve the number of pupils bused to promote integration.

Superintendent William M. Kendrick's March 23 proposal to the city school board came some 10 years after Seattle became one of the nation's first major cities to undertake a comprehensive desegregation program voluntarily.

Often cited in its early years as a model for such efforts in other cities, the plan has been a target of criticism recently for allegedly contributing to "white flight'' from the district. (See Education Week, Nov. 18, 1987.)

The plan was also the subject of one of the last major rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on school desegregation. In a 1982 decision, the Court struck down a 1978 voter-initiated state law that would have banned voluntary busing programs such as the one in Seattle.

Concern over declining white enrollment was not the primary consideration behind the new proposal, according to Donna Dunning, a spokesman for Mr. Kendrick.

Rather, she said, it reflects the superintendent's view "that some elements of the old plan no longer fit Seattle,'' and that "the district needs to provide higher-quality education to the children.''

"As with everything, he felt the time had come for a revision,'' Ms. Dunning said.

Under Mr. Kendrick's proposal, the district would be divided into three zones, each containing two to four "clusters'' composed of eight or nine schools.

Parents would be allowed to select their children's schools from within the clusters in which they live.

The district estimates that between 80 percent and 90 percent of the students would be allowed to attend their first choice of schools.

The plan also calls for the closing of five or six elementary schools and the creation of several magnet schools to promote further integration.

Ms. Dunning said that about 5,000 students would have to be bused for desegregation purposes under the new plan, compared with 10,000 at present.

She said the board was expected to take final action on the proposal by June 8.--T.M.

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