Settlement Proposed in K.C. Desegregation Case

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Kansas City, Mo.--A settlement that would rely on voluntary student transfers to increase minority enrollment in suburban school districts to as much as 15 percent has been proposed in the Kansas City metropolitan school-desegregation suit.

Details of the confidential proposal call for interdistrict transfers of 7,000 students to magnet schools in the city and the suburbs by 1990.

The plan was drawn up by local education experts and David S. Tatel, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who was hired by area civic leaders several months ago to help negotiate a settlement in the ongoing trial, which began in early November in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City.

The suit, Jenkins v. State of Missouri, seeks the reassignment of students between the Kansas City School District, where about 75 percent of the students are black, and 11 suburban districts, where minority enrollment is no more than 16 percent. The plaintiffs, a group of schoolchildren, filed suit against Kansas City, the suburban districts, and the state and federal governments in May 1977.

The work on the plan appears to have been sponsored by the board of directors of the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, a local civic organization. Mr. Tatel, a former director of the office for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, was an attorney for the St. Louis school district in the recent court-enforced desegregation settlement between St. Louis and 23 suburban districts. The issue of financing the massive and controversial desegregation plan in that case is still largely unresolved.

The settlement plan, initially presented in a confidential draft to parties in the suit on Oct. 13, is the first formal proposal to be presented in the six-year-old desegregation case. Lawyers for the Kansas City schools late last month handed out a detailed appendix to the proposed settlement to lawyers representing the other parties in the case.

"At this point, it's just a working document," said James Borthwick, a lawyer representing the Kansas City School District. "No one has agreed on it. It's a matter for discussion."

But George Feldmiller, liaison counsel for all of the suburban school districts, said, "This case is going to be tried. We did not ask for it [the proposal] and we're not interested."

Arthur Benson 2nd, an attorney for the plaintiff schoolchildren, had no comment on the proposal.

The major components of the proposed settlement are voluntary transfers of students between the Kansas City schools and the suburban districts, magnet schools located in both the city and the suburbs offering special programs, such as in the performing arts and health sciences, and "educational enhancement plans" aimed primarily at city schools. The enhancement plans involve reducing the pupil-teacher ratio, adding more counselors, and improving staff-development efforts.

Besides the full-time magnet schools, the proposal suggests "educational enrichment centers," or part-time magnet programs offering short-term instruction. The centers would be set up in the Kansas City school district.

Vol. 03, Issue 14

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