Kansas City and State Battle to Settle 1977 School Case
Jan. 19, 1985
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A school district plan to resolve a 1977 desegregation suit by consolidating 12 districts would be a ''raid on the treasury,'' according to the state attorney general, whose proposal would involve only Kansas City's predominantly black district.
The state Board of Education and the Kansas City School District presented the plans in U.S. District Court on Friday in response to a Sept. 17 desegregation order.
The school district proposed that its students, 68.3 percent of whom are black, and those in 11 predominantly white suburban districts be consolidated in one 118,000-student metropolitan district.
The state proposes to meet the court's requirements, ''without needless dislocation,'' through voluntary transfers within the district, enhanced educational programs and some reassignments, said Missouri Attorney General William Webster.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs have 30 days to file a response before U.S. District Judge Russell Clark rules on the case.
Clark's ordered the school district and state to find a way to remove all vestiges of what was once a racially separate, dual school system. The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 1977 on behalf of Kansas City students.
George Feldmiller, an attorney representing the 11 suburban districts, called the consolidation unjustifiable.
But the school district plan said a consolidated district was the only way to ''eradicate the deeply-ingrained, area-wide vestiges of the state's original constitutional violation.''
Twenty-four of Kansas City's 68 schools have black enrollment of at least 90 percent. Racial minorities make up 73.4 percent of the city's 36,000 students; 68.3 percent of the students are black.
Minority enrollment in the 11 suburban districts averages 6.9 percent, ranging from 19.4 percent in Hickman Mills to 2.4 percent in Lee's Summit.
In the proposed metropolitan district, minority enrollment would vary from 20 percent to 40 percent, with an average of 27 percent.
The state's plan would concentrate on city schools where black students are in higher proportion than the district average, with a goal of seeing that no student attends a school with more than 82 percent black enrollment.
The state said it could not yet say precisely how that would be achieved pending additional computer studies that Webster said will cost about $200,000.
He estimated the cost of the state's plan at $5 million to $10 million, and said the city's plan ''represents nothing less than a massive raid on the state treasury.''
''When you're looking at a $90 million price tag, I think you can see that basically they're trying to get the state dollars and going far beyond the scope of the judge's order,'' said Webster, who took office Monday.
The school district asked that the state be ordered to pay $55 million over three years for school capital improvements, and it put first-year costs of starting the consolidation at about $35 million.
''You cannot effectively desegregate without consolidation,'' said Arthur Benson, attorney for the students who filed the desegregation suit. ''It's going to cost money. The state caused it. It's going to have to pay for it.''