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Fort Wayne To Get Extra Aid in Desegregation Case

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Indiana officials have agreed to provide the Fort Wayne schools with an extra $12.9 million over six years to fund educational improvements as part of a desegregation settlement.

Under the agreement with the district and the plaintiffs in the case, the state has agreed to provide funding for reading instruction, preschool and kindergarten programs, and training to help teachers work with low-income and minority children. Specific priorities are to be set by a committee representing the school system, the plaintiffs, and the city's business community.

"There is a great deal of research that demonstrates that preschool and early-childhood programs improve the ability of kids to learn, and this settlement will provide more help to kids who need it most,'' Gov. Evan Bayh said in announcing the agreement.

"With the additional revenue, we will be able to continue programs that have moved us beyond desegregation and have children function in a truly integrated learning environment,'' the district's superintendent, William E. Coats, said in a statement.

The plaintiffs had accused the state of supporting racial segregation in the Fort Wayne schools by approving, over parents' objections, the district's construction of new schools in racially isolated areas.

Corporation Backed Plaintiffs

U.S. District Judge Allen Sharp tentatively approved the agreement earlier this month.

It calls for the state to give the district an additional $900,000 in the next school year and an extra $2.4 million per year for five years thereafter, as well as reimbursing the district up to $1.1 million for legal fees and other costs. It also calls for the district to extend by three years, until the summer of 2000, a special tax levy that now brings in about $450,000 annually.

The settlement comes about 10 years after the U.S. Education Department's office for civil rights first determined that Fort Wayne's schools were racially segregated.

In 1986, a group of black and white parents joined Quality Education With Integration, an civil-rights organization, in filing suit against the district and state. Lincoln National Corporation, an insurance and investments company based in Fort Wayne, helped pay their legal costs.

Four years later, the district agreed to desegregate all of its elementary schools by the end of the 1991-1992 school year and improved its racial balance with magnet schools and voluntary-transfer programs. The plaintiffs continued their litigation against the state.

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