Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

State Expert Backs Magnet Program Special Schools Are Needed, He Tells Court

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

State Expert Backs Magnet Program Special Schools Are Needed, He Tells Court

Article excerpt

A school desegregation expert for the state, which wants to phase out funding for the program here, said Wednesday that ending a major part of the program - magnet schools - would be a mistake.

At a hearing in federal court, an attorney for the original plaintiffs in the 24-year-old case asked the expert, David Armor, whether shutting down magnet schools and ending city-to-suburban student transfers would produce a generation of poorly educated blacks.

Armor replied that the St. Louis public school system should not abandon the magnet schools, whose specialized curriculums are designed to attract black and white, city and suburban students.

"If the district stopped all magnet programs, that would be unfortunate," he said.

In nearly a full day of testimony, Armor said that the city's public school officials have wiped out vestiges of desegregation in the way they put money into and assign staff to integrated, magnet and all-black schools.

Armor, a part-time faculty member at George Mason University near Washington, faced sharp questioning from William L. Taylor, an NAACP lawyer who represents plaintiffs in the case here. U.S. District Judge George F. Gunn Jr. is presiding over the hearing to determine the future of school desegregation here.

Taylor challenged Armor's assertion that black students' improved scores on standardized tests are more a result of the improved economic status of black families than school desegregation. Taylor contended that judges in desegregation cases in other cities have found flaws in Armor's findings.

"I'm not saying that everything I've said before a court has been accepted," Armor said.

Opponents of Attorney General Jay Nixon's proposal to phase out state spending for school desegregation here have made an issue of the money the state has paid its consultants. One, Christine Rossell, a political science professor at Boston University, has been paid $89,000 since September 1994. Armor earned about $50,000 in consulting fees between November 1994 and last November, a state official said.

Under questioning by Taylor, Armor said that the $100,000 he earned from his consulting work here and elsewhere in 1994 was the bulk of his income. …

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