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Judge Backs K.C. Plan To Promote Integration Via Computer

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A federal judge overseeing the desegregation of schools in Kansas City, Mo., has approved a plan to promote integration by linking black and white children by computer.

U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark last month endorsed a plan to have black and white students collaborate on projects via computer, calling it a "building block'' in the integration of Kansas City and its suburbs.

Judge Clark stressed that the move in no way lifted the obligation of the state of Missouri, the defendant in the case, to come up with a viable, voluntary cross-district integration plan. He ordered the state to pay for the computer initiative, which will begin this school year.

Racially Integrated Teams

The plan was developed by the ShareNet Association, a group of several Kansas City-area schools that share computer technology.

Students in the program, called "Show-Me-Missouri,'' will be assigned to racially integrated teams. Although they will meet face to face only about once a week, they will correspond by computer almost daily.

Teachers will guide students as they conduct research, share data, and resolve conflicts. As the students progress through high school, they will be expected to spend more and more time taking classes at local community colleges.

Lawyers for the state and for the black plaintiffs in the case criticized the plan for lacking details about costs.

The plaintiffs also argued that the plan "has no merit as a means of reducing the racial isolation of students'' because it does not envision that that a single child will transfer from the Kansas City school system to a neighboring district.

The state's lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the plan would duplicate a similar computer network that the state is setting up at a cost of up to $5 million a year.

Tax Request Denied

In a separate order also issued last month, Judge Clark denied the Kansas City school board's request to boost the local property tax to generate more funding for desegregation.

The district has been unable to meet its responsibility to cover about 25 percent of the cost of the desegregation program. As a result, it sought to raise its property-tax levy from $4.96 to $5.07 per $100 of assessed evaluation. Officials estimated that the increase would generate a total of $2.2 million.

Judge Clark said the extra burden on taxpayers was unjustifiable because the increase would not raise enough new revenue for the district.

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