Judge Approves St. Louis Desegregation Pact

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A federal district judge earlier this month approved a sweeping voluntary school-desegregation plan that includes the city of St. Louis and 23 outlying suburban school districts.

Last week, however, officials in the Missouri attorney general's office informed a federal appeals court that they would contest the ruling and announced that they would ask U.S. District Judge William L. Hungate to stay his order pending the appeal.

The pact approved by Judge Hungate on July 5 envisions the eventual transfer of 15,000 black students from city schools to predominantly white schools in suburban St. Louis County. By 1988, suburban districts that have not raised their minority enrollments to at least 15 percent could be taken back to court by either the city or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This September, approximately 2,000 city students will attend suburban schools and 910 suburban students will attend city schools, according to city school officials.

The plan also calls for the establishment of new magnet schools in both the city and the suburbs, the voluntary integration of teaching staffs, and the creation of a new coordinating committee to oversee its implementation.

Approval Stalled

City and suburban officials agreed to many of the plan's components in February, but disagreements over how it would be financed had stalled its approval for several months, said Gene Uram, chief desegregation planner for the city schools.

Under the agreement, Mr. Uram explained, components of the program that would result in the actual "mixing" of students, such as the es-tablishment of magnet schools, would be paid for in full by the state. Other components of the plan, such as the maintenance and renovation of city school buildings, would be paid for by the state and the city school board on a 50-50 basis.

Half of State Aid

In addition, the state would have to pay school districts that send students to other districts for desegregation purposes half of the state aid that they otherwise would have received for each pupil. At the same time, districts that accept student transfers would receive a full share of the state aid per child.

Earlier this month Gov. Christopher S. Bond accused Judge Hungate of "writing a blank check" for the desegregation plan "that would have a devastating effect on the education budget of the state." State education officials have estimated that the plan could cost the state as much as $100 million during the first year.

An official in the attorney general's office said that because the state has never been found liable for interdistrict segregation of students, it should not be forced to pay for an interdistrict remedy.

Liable for Segregation

He said that the state "had indeed" been found liable for segregation within the city itself, and pointed out that it had paid approximately $30 million over the last three years to cover the cost of student busing in the city.

But the new plan's finance provisions "are absolutely open-ended," the official said. "There's no end to it as far as the state can see."--tm

Vol. 02, Issue 39

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