Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Law & Courts

Yonkers Desegregation Suit May Be Nearing End

By Karla Scoon Reid — January 16, 2002 3 min read

The decades-old desegregation case in Yonkers, N.Y., could end this year if a federal court approves a settlement that would pump an additional $300 million in state money into the struggling school district.

“This agreement will give the local schools back to the children, parents, and teachers of Yonkers,” Gov. George E. Pataki of New York said at a Jan. 8 news conference announcing the pact. “Now, we can focus all of our energy and resources on providing the finest education possible for the children of Yonkers.”

But the accord reached last week by state officials, the local school board, the city, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People does not mean the parties agree about the lingering effects of racial segregation on the 26,400-student district.

Joseph M. Pastore Jr., the court-appointed monitor who helped mediate the agreement, said that the plaintiffs—the NAACP and the federal government—believe that vestiges of 40 years of segregation continue to negatively affect Yonkers’ students. The city, the school board, and the state, however, contend that there is no relationship between poor student performance and segregation.

U.S. District Judge Leonard B. Sand, who in 1985 found that the city and the district were responsible for racially segregating the schools, still must sign off on the five-year agreement, which would return control of the district to the local school board members, who are appointed by the mayor.

The deal calls for the state to give the district $70 million this year and $230 million over the next four years, money that must be used to introduce and maintain programs to improve the academic performance of all students. Those efforts include magnet programs, smaller class sizes, and full- day kindergarten. About 75 percent of Yonkers’ students are African-American, Hispanic, or Asian.

A newly appointed compliance officer would monitor the agreement. The naming of a compliance officer, who could not be fired by the district, was key to gaining the NAACP’s support for the plan, said Leonard Buddington, the president of Yonkers’ NAACP chapter.

The agreement was set to be submitted to the court this week. Judge Sand is expected to rule on the case within the next month.

Financial Factors

For Yonkers, the settlement concludes a contentious legal battle that began in 1980 and included charges that the city encouraged segregated housing. The school agreement does not affect pending housing litigation.

After years of wrangling, why was an agreement reached now?

In 1999, a federal appeals court ruled that the district’s racial disparities in student achievement were not solely the result of segregation, signaling a significant shift in the balance of legal power and giving the state and the city their first significant victory.

A year later, Mr. Pastore said, Gov. Pataki, a Republican, gave the district $10 million in “good-faith money” to spark settlement discussions.

In addition, the district was facing the fallout of a struggling economy in 2001 and the resulting crimp in state education spending, Mr. Pastore said. Restoring financial stability to the district was paramount to closing the deal.

But Mr. Pastore and Mr. Buddington cautioned that money alone would not resolve the dispute. The plaintiffs wanted to guarantee that programs remained in place to address racial and ethnic academic disparities.

If Judge Sand approves the deal, the district, the city, and New York state will not be obligated to continue any programs past 2006, when the agreement would expire. Mr. Pastore said that the district and the city would have to examine ways to cut costs and find additional money to keep the programs running.

Mr. Buddington said he was relying on the programs’ success to influence both city and state officials to continue to allocate the money to sustain them. Still, he said, it would be up to local residents to serve as watchdogs and pressure officials to continue those programs.

“This is our opportunity over the next five years to deal with institutional racism and deal with institutional reform,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the January 16, 2002 edition of Education Week as Yonkers Desegregation Suit May Be Nearing End


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Director of Athletics
Farmington, Connecticut
Farmington Public Schools

Read Next

Law & Courts Supreme Court Considers Issue of Damages That Comes Up in Many Suits Over School Policies
The justices weigh whether students still have a case for "nominal damages" when schools change a policy in response to a lawsuit.
6 min read
supreme court IMG
Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh Whether Schools May Discipline Students for Internet Speech
The justices will hear the appeal of a school district whose discipline of a student for her vulgar message on Snapchat was overturned.
5 min read
Law & Courts District's At-Large Elections Violated Minority Voting Rights, Federal Appeals Court Finds
The case involves school board elections in a majority Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish district with a large Black and Latino population.
3 min read
Image of people at voting booths.
Law & Courts Federal Appeals Court Revives Teacher's Pay-Discrimination Case Over Starting Salary
The court weighed an administrator's alleged comment that the teacher's starting pay was less because her husband worked.
3 min read