Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mahan Predicts Dire Effects If Desegregation Is Ended Overcrowding, Further Isolation Will Occur, He Testifies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mahan Predicts Dire Effects If Desegregation Is Ended Overcrowding, Further Isolation Will Occur, He Testifies

Article excerpt

Ending the desegregation program would further racially isolate children in public schools in St. Louis, overcrowd classes and devastate education, the city schools superintendent testified Friday.

Superintendent David J. Mahan said he personally believed it would be "a tragedy" for city schoolchildren if the desegregation programs were ended and the city-county transfer plan stopped. Mahan also said he believed that in recent years the focus had shifted toward money and away from children's needs.

"This court case began many years ago because of what was being done to children," Mahan said.

Mahan strongly believes the city-county transfer program should continue, he said, a position the St. Louis School Board also takes. He said the possibility that the desegregation program might end has caused a lot of uncertainty among parents, pupils and staff members.

Mahan testified before U.S. District Judge George F. Gunn Jr. at the end of the second week in a three-week hearing on the future of desegre gation here. The state of Missouri sought the hearing and wants to phase out state aid for desegregation, saying the $1.4 billion it has contributed since 1980 is enough.

Under questioning by St. Louis School Board attorney Ken Brostron, Mahan testified about the conditions and poverty experienced by many St. Louis schoolchildren. For instance, he said:

75 percent of families in the city receive some type of welfare.

82 percent of St. Louis public school pupils receive either a free or reduced-price lunch.

One in five births in St. Louis is to a teen-age mother.

As pupils, one in three St. Louis schoolchildren has been or will be a victim of crime, frequently violent crime.

"All of these issues make the process of living virtually an endeavor of survival for many of our families," Mahan said. "They work against children coming to school; they work against children being successful in school."

Mahan said the city schools, which already are nearly 79 percent black, would become 85 to 86 percent black if the 12,000-plus transfer pupils returned.

He said pupils also would end up in more crowded classrooms with fewer educational opportunities. …

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