Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Justice Dept. Backs Kc Schools Ruling Missouri Must Keep Supporting Program, U.S. Says

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Justice Dept. Backs Kc Schools Ruling Missouri Must Keep Supporting Program, U.S. Says

Article excerpt

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it will oppose Missouri's attempt to stop paying for school improvement programs as part of the Kansas City school desegregation plan.

The department asked the Supreme Court to let it argue against the state's appeal of a lower court ruling that said improved academic performance by students must be considered in deciding whether a school district had satisfied its desegregation obligations.

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon called the department's stance "a social, ideological and political decision" that departed from the government's position in previous administrations.

But a senior Justice Department official said it will not ask the court to chart any new legal ground, only to force the state to prove that it has done all it could to eliminate the effects of the state's dual, segregated school system.

D. Bruce LaPierre, a law professor at Washington University, said the government's entry into the case will bolster the case for continuing state payments and could signal the Clinton administration's position in the St. Louis school case as well.

"What happens in Kansas City will have a significant impact on what happens in St. Louis," he said.

One of the effects of segregated schools in Kansas City was inferior academic performance by black students, according to U.S. District Judge Russell G. Clark. He ordered the state to pay for improved educational programs and salary increases for teachers and other school employees.

The state spent millions of dollars to do so. Two years ago, it asked Clark to declare that it had fulfilled its obligations. Clark rejected that request and his ruling was upheld by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which cited subpar student test scores as evidence that student achievement hadn't improved enough to warrant ending that part of the desegregation program..

Nixon seized upon what he said was a new standard - test scores - that he called an unrealistic and unnecessary goal for districts to achieve before getting out from under court-ordered desegregation plans. He likened the state's progress to that of a team on a football field. …

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