Milestones in Kansas City Case
The Kansas City, Mo., school district and a group of black plaintiffs file suit against the state, several suburban school systems, and various federal agencies seeking a metropolitan desegregation plan. After a trial, U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark realigns the city district as a defendant and releases the suburbs and agencies from liability.
Judge Clark declares the state jointly liable with the district for the costs of desegregating the city schools. The resulting plan to remedy the damage to black students involves massive capital improvements and the establishment of magnet schools designed to lure white students from the suburbs.
The U.S. Supreme Court effectively upholds a tax increase imposed by Judge Clark to pay for the desegregation effort. After declining to review the full scope of the plan, the court rules that the judge could not raise local property taxes himself but could order the district to do so.
The high court again rules in the case, concluding that Judge Clark erred in ordering programs to attract white suburban students and in using substandard performance by black students on national standardized tests as a legal basis for requiring the sweeping desegregation plan.
The state asks Judge Clark to declare the district unitary, a legal term meaning that it can be freed from judicial oversight. The state and district also reach an agreement, subject to Judge Clark's approval, to end the state's $100 million annual subsidy of the desegregation plan by 1999.
Last week, Judge Clark says court oversight must continue because the district has failed to remedy the effects of racial discrimination in educational quality, assignments, facilities, and transportation. He agrees to free the state from financial liability, but urges state education officials to assert control over district affairs.