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U.S. Judge Declares Buffalo Schools Desegregated

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A federal judge has declared the Buffalo, N.Y., school system desegregated, ending nearly two decades of court supervision and surprising local civil-rights activists who did not know such a decision was in the works.

U.S. District Judge John T. Curtin ruled last month that the 47,800-student district has remedied all vestiges of past racial discrimination and should be removed from the court supervision it has been under since 1976.

"It is plain that the [school board] is strongly committed to continuing to pursue the goals of desegregation and providing a high-quality of education to all students in the school system," the judge said in his 17-page decision.

Judge Curtin added, however, that the board's ability to meet such goals would be hindered by budget cuts proposed by district officials. Such cuts, he said, "would have a disproportionate impact on minority students."

Help From the City

Accordingly, the judge ordered the city government--a defendant in the case--to provide the district with an additional $5 million over each of the next four years. The order boosts the city's annual allocation to about $64 million this year in a total district budget of about $390 million.

The judge also ordered the city and the school board to set up an $80 million account for school construction and renovation.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello hailed the judge's decision, which embraced much of a proposed settlement the mayor had offered.

The mayor added, however, that the school system still faces some serious problems, including a projected shortfall of $50 million in its budget next year.

District officials questioned whether they will be able to count on adequate support from the city and keep schools integrated in the long term. About half the students in the district are black, and minority students altogether make up about two-thirds of enrollment.

Several plaintiffs in the case said they had no idea Judge Curtin would move to end the case. They met with lawyers last week to discuss a possible appeal.

"We don't think he should just vacate the case like this. We are afraid of resegregation," said Daniel R. Acker, the president of the Buffalo branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

George K. Arthur, the president of the Buffalo City Council and a plaintiff in the case, predicted that minority advocates will soon need to return to court "to maintain a quality school district."

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