Yonkers Desegregation Plan Approved

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In a rare display of unanimity, the Reagan Administration, a major civil-rights group, and the Yonkers, N.Y., school board have agreed on a five-year plan to desegregate the city's public schools without mandatory busing.

But the fate of the agreement was cast into doubt almost immediately when the Yonkers City Council voted on March 20 not to finance it. According to municipal officials, the council rejected the $18.5-million proposal because the city already faces a $48-million deficit in the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Under the terms of the consent agreement, which was announced on March 17 and approved by the Yonkers school board four days later, the board now has approximately one month to seek funds for the plan from state, county, and federal officials. If those efforts are fruitless, the four-year-old case will go back to trial before U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand.

According to Michael Sussman, the lawyer representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the case, the ability of the Administration and the organization to agree on the terms of the school-desegregation settlement "certainly is something of a first."

But he added that the two "definitely aren't embracing each other," predicting that they would react quite differently if the school board fails to accomplish all of the objectives set out for it in the agreement.

The Justice Department has said that if the board "simply makes a good-faith effort to desegregate, regardless of results, they'll get out" of the case, Mr. Sussman said. "But that's not the standard that we're held to. If the district doesn't make adequate progress, the naacp has the right to go back to court" and seek mandatory student reassignments.

Balance Required

The agreement requires the 20,000-student school district to ensure that racial balance in all of its schools reflects the racial composition of the district as a whole to within plus or minus 20 percentage points.

According to recent data, 53 percent of the district's students are white, 23 percent are black, 20 percent are Hispanic, and 4 percent are Asian.

Mr. Sussman said that, as of this school year, only three of the district's 27 schools meet the agreement's definition of a desegregated setting.

The district is to reduce segregation by closing several schools, redrawing attendance boundary lines, creating magnet programs at the elementary- and high-school levels, and transforming middle schools into integrated "preparatory centers."

According to Mr. Sussman, middle-school students will be required to attend the new centers only two days a week through the end of the 1985-86 school year. Beginning in September 1986, full-time attendance at the centers, which will offer both compensatory and gifted-and-talented programs, will be mandatory.

The Yonkers desegregation suit, which also involves allegations of housing discrimination, was filed by the Carter Administration in 1980. It was the first time that the federal government linked school and housing discrimination in a single case, according to federal officials.--tm

Vol. 03, Issue 27

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