Sides Gird for Hearing on School Desegregation

Article excerpt

The major players in the St. Louis desegregation case pointed fingers at each other in court documents this week. The issue: What issues will be heard in a February hearing on the future of desegregation.

The state of Missouri says it has done all that's been asked of it in helping to desegregate the St. Louis Public Schools and that the case should be phased out now.

Rubbish, say the St. Louis School Board and the parents who brought the desegregation suit against the city schools in 1972. They say the state has not met its obligations and that the major parts of the plan - including magnet schools, the voluntary city-county transfer program and a $364 million school renovation program - have not been completed.

U.S. District Judge George F. Gunn Jr. will hear arguments Feb. 20 from all sides on whether city schools are "unitary," or desegregated enough to end court supervision. But first, Gunn has set a pre-hearing on Oct. 11 to decide what issues will be raised in February.

The state asked for the February hearing. In its statement filed Monday by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, the state says:

The court should end the voluntary program under which nearly 14,000 students attend schools in St. Louis County. It says recent Supreme Court decisions pave the way for dismantling such programs.

Issues concerning housing, student achievement, financing and vocational education should not be part of the hearing.

The state says Missouri taxpayers have paid more than $3 billion to finance court-ordered desegregation in St. Louis and Kansas City.

In its statement, the St. Louis School Board argues that abruptly ending the case would return thousands of city black students to segregated schools and end educational programs in the city to help them.

Instead, the School Board proposes that the desegregation program be fully implemented, that a funding plan for it be established and that the district be given three years to reorganize and begin educational reform before a "phase-out" of court intervention. …