Judge takes step toward returning control to KC schools

Monday, April 1, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A ruling from a federal judge means the Kansas City school district is one step closer to regaining local control.

U.S. District Court Judge Dean Whipple ruled on Friday that the schools have made enough progress in four areas to regain local control. The schools have been operating under Whipple's control.

The four areas are racial balance, facilities, budgeting and transportation. Whipple's ruling did not, however, address the gap in academic performance between black and white students, an issue that will be considered separately.

Whipple wrote that the district has done as much as it can in those four areas to remove the lingering damage done by the racial segregation that led to the filing of the federal lawsuit in 1977.

"This is excellent," superintendent Bernard Taylor, Jr. said Saturday. "The district is clearly making progress, but we have more room to grow."

The ruling is good news for the district, at a time when it needs good news. On April 17, the state Board of Education will decide whether the district should receive partial provisional accreditation. Taylor said the ruling will help.

Whipple's order comes more than a year after a hearing on the district's status on issues not related to academic performance. At that hearing, plaintiff's attorney Arthur A. Benson II had opposed a finding that the school district deserved local control. Benson declined to comment on the ruling Saturday, saying he was still studying it.

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