FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6, 1999
TDD (202) 514-1888
SETTLEMENT REACHED IN ST. LOUIS SCHOOL DESEGREGATION CASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department, the Board of Education of the city of St. Louis, the state of Missouri, 16 suburban school districts and private plaintiffs today announced that they have reached an agreement that will bring a 27 year-old school desegregation case to a close.
The agreement is subject to the approval of U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, and is contingent upon the passage of an upcoming referendum by voters in the city of St. Louis that would increase sales taxes in order to fund a portion of the education plan.
"This is an historic day for children in St. Louis and the surrounding suburbs," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "This agreement ensures the continuation of highly successful magnet schools in St. Louis, small classes in other city schools, the implementation of an ambitious school improvement program in city schools, and the continuation of the nation's most successful voluntary interdistrict transfer program."
The lawsuit was originally filed in 1972 against the St. Louis City School Board. The state of Missouri and surrounding county districts were added as defendants in later years. In 1980, the District Court ordered the implementation of a desegregation plan within the city schools. In 1983, the parties entered into an agreement that created a voluntary interdistrict transfer program in which African-American students from the city of St. Louis were permitted to attend certain suburban schools, and white suburban students were permitted to attend city schools.
"This case has greatly enhanced educational opportunities for children in St. Louis." added Mr. Lee. Under the interdistrict transfer program, nearly 12,000 city students attend county schools, while almost 1,400 county students attend city schools, which makes this the nation's largest voluntary interdistrict transfer program. In addition, roughly 12,000 city students attend magnet schools in St. Louis, while class size has been reduced at other city schools.
Under the terms of today's proposed agreement, funding will enable the city to continue the highly successful magnet school program, maintain appropriate class size at other city schools, institute strict new accountability standards and implement an intensive school improvement project at other city schools.
The state has agreed to ensure funding for the voluntary interdistrict transfer program for at least ten years.
The county school districts have agreed to continue accepting transfer students from city schools for at least three years. After three years, each suburban district will have the discretion to determine its level of participation in the program. Children who are in the program will be given the opportunity to complete high school, even if a school district decides to end its participation in the transfer program. The county to city transfer program will also continue.
Under the agreement, the case will be dismissed, although the court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the agreement.
Mr. Lee expressed hope that the agreement will ultimately be put into place saying, "It is time to take the next step in our continuing effort to ensure equal educational opportunity for school children in St. Louis."