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Urban Officials' Views on Desegregation Surveyed

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Two-thirds of the nation's urban school officials believe that minority children can get a high-quality education in a racially segregated setting--if their schools have adequate financial and instructional resources, a recent survey says.

Moreover, a third of the urban superintendents and school board members responding to the survey said their districts' enrollments are so overwhelmingly minority that they have made desegregation efforts immaterial.

Nevertheless, most of the survey respondents continued to view desegregation as worthwhile, with most believing that it boosts minority-student achievement, brings urban districts needed resources, and helps prepare students for life in a pluralistic society, said a report on the survey's findings issued last month.

The survey was conducted during the past school year by the National School Boards Association's Council of Urban Boards of Education. The council sent questionnaires to 800 school board members and administrators in 164 urban school districts; 63 percent responded.

"This report shows us that desegregation has not yet met the goals set out by Brown v. Board of Education, but the responses also tell us that desegregation has been a good educational tool," said Karen Shook, a District of Columbia school board member and the chairwoman of the N.S.B.A. council.

Views Vary by Race

Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, and Theodore M. Shaw, an associate director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, both described the survey's findings as unsurprising.

"There is nothing inherently wrong with an all-black institution," Mr. Shaw said last month. "There is, however, something inherently wrong with all-black institutions that were created as a predicate to other forms of educational deprivation."

Responses varied significantly according to the race and location of those being polled, with blacks being the most likely to believe that desegregation has hurt the achievement of minority children. Asians and Hispanics, the fastest-growing segments of the minority population, were the most likely to believe that desegregation promotes racial tolerance.

A particularly divisive question was whether civil-rights laws should be amended to allow courts to order desegregation across school districts. Ninety-one percent of Hispanics and 70 percent of blacks endorsed such a change; 45 percent of white and 33 percent of Asian-Americans favored it.

Respondents from the Rocky Mountain and Great Plains states had the most positive views of desegregation. The researchers said this may be because they have had fewer experiences with court-ordered desegregation plans.

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