Arthur Benson

Segregation and Litigation

Before the Civil War the Kansas/Missouri state line that runs through the Kansas City metropolitan area was a front in a deadly border war, a bloody precursor of the war between the north and the south. Free-staters in Kansas, Jayhawkers, sought admission of their state to the Union with slavery prohibited and Missouri bushwhackers, as the border ruffians proudly called themselves, sought to impose slavery on Kansas by force and ballot stuffing.

North and South also intersected in public schools. Missouri was the northern most of the states to require separate schools for whites and blacks by state constitutional mandate. Unlike southern patterns of school organization, however, southern segregation was superimposed upon northern school organizations. In the South school districts were generally coterminous with county lines but in the North school districts were organized on the Massachusetts model, each district serving children within walking distance.

As late as 1948 Missouri had over 6,000 school districts, only about 300 of which offered a high school education. The typical district had one school, two rooms, two teachers, and about thirty students, all white. Since the state required separate facilities for whites and blacks, most of these small districts could not afford to educate the occasional black child or two who showed up in the district. Missouri, until the 1930s, did not require that blacks be provided tuition or transportation to a distant district willing to educate them. They were on their own.

Many migrated with their families to Kansas City and St. Louis, about the only places that offered high schools for blacks. When they arrived in Kansas City, they found it as segregated as the deep south. A series of landmark Supreme Court cases dots the history of the civil rights movement, punctuating the life of blacks in Missouri. States were required to provide separate but equal law schools for blacks in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 (1938), but Gaines was never seen alive again after his Supreme Court victory. Racially restrictive covenants, mass applied for the first time to new subdivisions in Kansas City, were struck down in Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948) [1], a case arising from Missouri. Also from Missouri Jones v. Mayer, 392 U.S. 409 (1968) applied 42 U.S. Sec. 1981 to race discrimination in private sales of housing. Thus Missouri v. Jenkins in 1990 is only the latest in a more than five decade struggle by Missouri blacks to assert in the Supreme Court their rights to be free of race discrimination in housing and education.

The Kansas City school case resulted from the failure of the State of Missouri to take any steps to eliminate the vestiges of segregation after Brown in 1954. Although Missouri had assiduously defended separate but equal as the governing constitutional doctrine before Brown, even threatening to withhold state aid to a school that did not pay its black teachers as much as its whites, after 1954 the state abandoned any role in school desegregation to local authorities. The new governing constitutional principle was announced in an opinion of the Missouri Attorney General just six weeks after Brown. The opinion stated that local districts "may permit 'white and colored' children to attend the same schools," but left those districts free to decide "whether [they] must integrate."

The School District of Kansas City (Kansas City), left to its own devices with neither guidance nor aid from the State, and governed by a cozy group of business and civic leaders, did everything wrong. When it should have been eliminating the vestiges of separate white and black schools, it extended them. Attendance boundaries were redrawn hundreds of times in the late 1950s and through the 1960s, sometimes only a block at a time, to keep blacks in schools where blacks already attended. When these adjuhtments filled a school, the boundary jumped a dozen blocks and a new school for blacks was created.

Parallel to this growing string of black schools, a string of white schools was maintained. When no further boundary adjuhtments were possible black schoolchildren were required to walk to their overcrowded school to be met by a black teacher and a bus. They were then transported to an under-utilized white school where they had their own classroom, cafeteria period, and recess time. They were then bused back to their neighborhood school to walk home. At a time when the district was obligated to reduce racial isolation, it manifestly extended it.

These actions by the district conveyed a not-so-subtle message. Parents had long recognized that overcrowded schools were inferior. That only black schools were overcrowded led to the association of black schools with inferiority, a belief consonant with the prejudices of the day.

At a formerly all-white high school where in 1968 blacks had enrolled in significant numbers, the district transferred the physics teacher to another still all-white school. He was replaced with a teacher of principles of sanitation, a vocational course for black janitors. The message of inferiority was made explicit. Whites, using the district's "liberal transfer policy", first transferred to white schools in the district; later they moved from the district entirely, to the ring of surrounding all-white suburban schools.

By the mid-1970s the pre-Brown system of separate white and black schools had been extended to a district-wide system of mostly black schools, a few fringe white schools, and no integrated schools. This transformation of the district was fed by, and also fed upon, real estate practices regulated with benign neglect by Missouri. Racial steering, red-lining, and block busting were widely reported, and frequently complained of, but never halted nor even investigated by Missouri. Repeatedly a real estate broker would buy a house in an all-white block just south of where blacks were moving. He would move a black family into the house, then panic the neighbors on the street into selling for fifty cents on the dollar, warning that they would not get twenty-five cents if they waited. Pointing to neighborhoods and their elementary schools to the north recently "turned black", these brokers churned sales for years as entire areas were transformed. Between 1958 and 1973 sixty thousand whites moved out and were replaced by about fifty thousand blacks believing they were moving into integrated neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were soon all-black, as were the schools that served them.

Not only were those blacks deprived of their desire to live in stable integrated neighborhoods, they also lost out on the easiest path to middle class financial security. As the areas quickly became all-black, banks stopped making loans, insurance companies refused to insure, and potential buyers in the resell market were steered elsewhere. The homes had no market and the inflation of the late-1970s and early-1980s, the source of much growth in white middle class wealth, caused no appreciation in the value of their homes now in a racial ghetto.

As the whites left the district they took funding for schools with them. It was no coincidence that the last year the district had a majority white enrollment, 1969, was the last year the voters approved a levy increase or bond measure to finance schools. The voters in the district remain mostly white to this day, but they have nineteen times failed to vote money for the mostly black school district.

As racial transformation of the district sputtered out in the mid-1970s and the district faced financial and educational bankruptcy, the school board was taken over by a group of mothers and local activists. In 1977 what became the Jenkins case was filed by the Kansas City district. The school district was realigned as a defendant by the court and the case proceeded to trial with the plaintiff schoolchildren suing both the district and the State of Missouri and the district cross-claiming against the State. In 1984 the district court found that the district continued to suffer from the virulent effects of the segregation the State had imposed upon it for decades before 1954. Jenkins v. Missouri, 593 F.Supp. 1485 (W.D. Mo. 1984). Between 1985 and 1987 the district court entered a series of remedy orders. Those requiring a series of educational improvements, Milliken II relief, [2] are reported, Jenkins v. Missouri, 639 F.Supp. 19 (W.D. Mo. 1985). An order converting most of the district to magnet schools, entered November 12, 1986, is unreported. On September 15, 1987 the court ordered taxes increased to fund part of the district's share of the costs of the remedy. Jenkins v. Missouri, 672 F. Supp. 400 (W.D. Mo. 1987). Together, these orders constitute the desegregation plan for Kansas City. [3]

The plan is based primarily on four findings of the district court. The court first found that the district remained racially isolated, that the system of separate black and white schools had been extended by district policies and State inaction until the school district as a whole was racially identifiable, and that whites had been driven from the district by those violations. Next the court found that the educational system had been made manifestly inferior and that the mostly black student body suffered grievously from poor schools. Third, the court held the constitutional violations had caused the white majority population to withhold financing from the district. Fourth the court found that the physical plant had "literally rotted away." Each of these effects, the court found, worsened the other effects resulting in a downward spiral as the district rapidly deteriorated.

Noting that the scope of the violation defines the scope of the remedy, the court, over a period of three years, ordered the implementation of the desegregation plan. In 1985 a set of educational improvements was implemented to address initially the inferior schools effect. That component consisted of greatly reduced class sizes, full day kindergarten, improved libraries, before and after school programs, and a number of efforts directed to low-achieving students. The court in 1986 ordered a comprehensive magnet school plan designed to induce voluntary selections of schools within a system of controlled choice that would result in a redistribution of students within the district to effect desegregation of schools. It was also intended to attract from the suburbs nonminority students to move the district toward the racial balance it would have had but for the violations that resulted in white abandonment of the district.

The magnet school plan was developed for the plaintiff schoolchildren and the school district by educational and desegregation experts who designed a plan to meet the particular needs of Kansas City. The State of Missouri did not develop its own comprehensive plan for effecting desegregation and chose instead to oppose the Kansas City plan as unnecessary and too expensive. With no other plan before it, the district court ordered the comprehensive plan, finding it necessary to remedy the violations.

To remedy the effect of a "literally rotting" physical plant, the court ordered all schools renovated or replaced, a process that is transforming the district. The construction program is designed to complement the magnet themes and encourage parents to choose voluntarily to send their children to Kansas City schools. For instance, math/science elementary schools have special math and science labs, or an animal room, or some other special feature. Arts schools have space dedicated to dance, music, theater, and ceramics.

The court provided that the costs of the desegregation plan would generally be divided between the State of Missouri and the school district on a ratio of 75:25. The cost of renovating capital facilities, with an expected life greater than the desegregation plan, was divided evenly between the two. These expenses were imposed jointly and severally upon both Missouri and the school district. If the district could not pay its share, Missouri would be responsible for the difference. The school district had no funds with which to pay its 25%, thus requiring Missouri to face the probability that it would have to pay the district's share as well as its own.

To avoid reliance on the joint and several liability of the state, the court first asked Missouri to assist the district in raising its own share locally. Missouri then required a two-thirds vote to raise the operating levy or tax on real estate. The same margin was required to pass bonds for school construction. The State did not relieve these onerous requirements.

The court in 1986 temporarily enjoined a state statute that prevented the school district from realizing the full tax rate applied to its newly reassessed tax base, thus raising about $6 million toward the district's desegregation expenses. At that time it asked for assistance from Missouri in easing the procedures by which the district could raise funds, perhaps by authorizing new taxes, such as sales taxes, that were less disliked by the public than traditional property taxes. There was no response.

In 1986 and 1987 Kansas City on three occasions submitted ballot measures to a vote, seeking to raise its taxes or issue bonds for construction to fund its share of desegregation costs. The State offered no assistance, neither incentives to the voters nor even campaign aid. All were defeated.

In 1987 the district court considered the capital improvements needed by the district in the long term and how to finance them. Before and during the capital improvements hearing the court again asked Missouri for recommendations and assistance in securing the twenty-five percent share Kansas City should have to raise. This time Missouri stated bluntly that the court should require the district to fund its share of desegregation costs, including any capital improvements ordered. The plaintiff schoolchildren moved for local property and sales tax increases to fund the remedy and Missouri pointedly did not oppose it.

On September 15, 1987 the court approved the long range capital improvement plan and in a series of orders imposed a new local area earnings tax and raised the district's property tax from $2.05 to $4.00 per $100 of assessed valuation. The earnings tax was to fund desegregation operating expenses and the property tax was designated to retire $150 million in bonds the district was ordered to issue to fund the capital improvements ordered.

On appeal by Missouri, now opposing the taxes, the Eighth Circuit reversed the earnings tax, finding it to be an impermissibly intrusive intervention into local affairs. Jenkins v. Missouri, 855 F.2d 1295 (8th Cir. 1988). As an entirely new tax, imposed in a geographical area coincident with no other tax of any jurisdiction, it required the creation of a new tax collection bureaucracy complete with new forms, regulations, and procedures. This, the Eighth Circuit found, unconstitutionally interfered with the right of local jurisdictions to manage their own tax and financial affairs. [4]

As to the property tax, the Eighth Circuit found that pursuant to Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 337 U.S. 218 (1964) the Kansas City school board could raise its own property tax to fund a necessary desegregation remedy if the district court enjoined state statutes requiring voter approval. It held that such a method was preferable to direct imposition by the district court and accordingly modified the tax increase order.

On certiorari [5] sought by Missouri the Supreme Court affirmed the Eighth Circuit. Missouri v. Jenkins, 110 S. Ct. 1651 (April 18, 1990). For a 5-4 majority, Justice White wrote that a federal court may, as in Griffin, direct a local government to levy its own taxes as the Eighth Circuit had required. Such an indirect method of raising taxes does not violate Article III of the Constitution because federal courts have the authority to order local governments to fulfill the requirements that the Fourteenth Amendment imposes upon them. Justice White wrote that Griffin "followed a long and venerable line of cases in which this Court held that federal courts could issue the writ of mandamus to compel local governmental bodies to levy taxes adequate to satisfy their debt obligations." He concluded that it is "clear that a local government with taxing authority may be ordered to levy taxes in excess of the limit set by state statute where there is reason based in the Constitution for not observing the statutory limitation."

Status of the Litigation

As of early 1995, this case has resulted in two opinions of the Supreme Court [6], twenty reported opinions of the court of appeals [7], seven reported opinions of the district court [8], hundreds of unreported substantive and procedural orders of the district court [9], and five other reported opinions on related issues [10]. Two of the 1994 appeals court opinions are under review in the Supreme Court, having been argued January 11, 1995. Two appeals are presently pending in the court of appeals.

Major components of the Kansas City desegregation plan were scheduled to expire on June 30, 1995. The parties, however, in February, 1995 agreed to a desegregation plan and budget for the 1995-96 school year and averted a trial on those issues. The parties are using the litigation "cease-fire" in 1995 to attempt to negotiate a comprehensive settlement of all issues. Customarily, the district court has set expiration dates for most components of the plan and then extends those components after opportunities for the parties to be heard on program and budget modifications for the renewal period. If a settlement is not achieved, it is likely that the district court will consider a multi-year extension of the long-range magnet school plan [11], multi-year extensions for the educational programs, and new proposals for salary orders [12].

While the State has not filed a motion for a declaration of unitary status in this case, perhaps planning such a motion after the Supreme Court rules this year and if settlement talks fail, it has filed such a motion in the St. Louis case. The St. Louis motion has been set for trial in February, 1996.

General Nature of the Kansas City Plan

This litigation was commenced against two states, two state boards of education, two state education departments, twenty school districts and their superintendents and boards of education together educating 200,000 students, and four federal agencies. It sought systemic metropolitan relief in housing, transportation, and education. In the course of litigation all defendants except the State of Missouri defendants and the Kansas City School District were dismissed by the district court. The 1984 dismissal of twelve Missouri suburban districts and the 1985 refusal of the district court to consider a multi-district mandatory remedy resulted in development of a desegregation plan that focused upon the Kansas City district and was voluntary in nature.

In a reversal of the usual posture in such cases, the State of Missouri urged upon the district court a mandatory intradistrict student reassignment plan, commonly known as forced busing, and the plaintiffs and the Kansas City district sought a voluntary, district-wide plan with some interdistrict components [13]. The district court ordered the voluntary plan and found that system-wide improvements, both capital and educational, were necessary for the voluntary plan to succeed. Thus, Kansas City is presently renovating or replacing all of its physical facilities, upgrading basic educational programs [14] for the benefit of all Kansas City students but most especially for its mostly minority students, and creating innovative magnet school programs [15] that are intended to be attractive to intensely interested students and parents not a part of the Kansas City public schools.

This approach recognizes that voluntary school integration will not succeed unless schools offer educational opportunities that match suburban and private schools in basic educational opportunities while providing focused educational themes not available in competing public and private schools. For instance, while many suburban public schools have in recent years added computer instruction at many grades, it is unusual for those schools to offer more than one fifty minute period per week of computer instruction to most students. By contrast, the two computer magnet elementary schools have twelve computers in every twenty-two student class: one for the teacher and eleven for the twenty-two students. This permits half the class to work independently at computers on lessons tailored to the individual needs of each child while the teacher works traditionally with the other eleven students. After thirty or so minutes the students trade places and log in on a computer. The computer then reviews yesterday's lesson and moves the child ahead at whatever pace the child is capable of maintaining. By such instructional methods the effective class size for the teacher is reduced to eleven, students spend more than fifteen hours per week on computers, and in the fourth and fifth grades students already know one or more programming languages and are writing their own programs. While this technological approach to education is not attractive to all parents of elementary age students, it is powerfully attractive to a few. In fact, these five year old programs meet their desegregation goals each year.

Similarly, the foreign language immersion programs offer the basic core curriculum but present it entirely in a language other than English. Programs now operate in French, Spanish, and German with teachers recruited from Belgium, Cameroon, Puerto Rico, Argentina, and Germany. Students are taught, from kindergarten through fifth grade, all core subjects in the target language. Math, science, social studies, and history are all taught, for instance, in French by native speaking teachers who use no English in the classroom. Beginning in second grade reading in English is gradually introduced.

By this method of teaching even kindergarten students become fluent in only a few weeks and build their vocabulary steadily over the years. The teachers have the same expectations for learning by all students irrespective of race or family income. Consequently, we believe, academic achievement in these schools is strong for all students. Even though state required tests are given in English, these students are among the best in the district by the third or fourth grade.

While learning in French is not widely attractive to most parents, just as for intensive computer based instruction, it is sufficiently attractive to enough parents willing to send their students substantial distances to take advantage of it. Well run language immersion programs succeed well in attracting a desegregated enrollment to urban public schools.

Thus the overall approach of the Kansas City desegregation plan is to provide a sound basic core curriculum enhanced and infused with specialized approaches to education that are intensely attractive to a just enough students and their parents to cause the voluntary integration of classes in this urban school district.


Educational Achievement

The earliest phases of the plan for Kansas City were implemented in the fall of 1985 when the class size reduction program began a three year phase in and the other educational components were planned and their implementation started. The magnet schools started on a limited basis in September, 1986 with more opening each year thereafter. All middle and high schools are now magnet schools and all but fifteen elementary schools are magnets. Of the nonmagnet schools, some will be closed when schools now under construction are opened and others may be converted to magnets, with themes still to be selected, over the next several years if approved by the court. The capital improvements are presently about 80% complete but the remaining work will require about five years to complete.

The Kansas City School District experienced a steep decline in academic achievement starting in the mid-1970s and continuing until the late 1980s. That decline has been stopped and achievement for the last several years has been flat. There have, however, been some strong improvements in many elementary schools in math and science test scores over the last four years. In addition, analyses of gain scores [16] reveal that while Kansas City students lag behind national norms, as do the students in all inner city public school systems, annual gains are improving substantially in many schools.

Standardized test scores are a highly fallible means for measuring academic achievement -- about which more later. They are especially problematical for urban districts with a high percentage of poor and minority students. Nonetheless, they are the only quantifiable measure we have at present.

Overall, there has been modest but encouraging improvement in academic outcomes. Based on evidence presented to the district court in 1993, from 1986 to 1992 KCMSD students' mean standardized test scores in reading, language arts, and math increased as measured against students' scores nationwide in 25 out of 33 points of comparison. The increase was by an average of seven percentile points. There were no changes in three points of comparison and declines in five points. Between two-thirds and three-quarters of all grades at all schools showed higher median percentile scores in 1993 than they did in 1985.

Elementary Schools

As measured against other urban school districts, the Large City Reference Group Norms, the KCMSD has made considerable progress. Although new test scores will be available around June 1, 1995, last year's scores demonstrate the progress made in our elementary schools. At the elementary schools, the KCMSD scores for all subject matters at all grade levels, twenty-seven comparison points, meet or exceed -- often exceed by large margins -- the large city reference group norms. Science, a subject that most urban district have experienced significant difficulties in teaching, has in the KCMSD reached extraordinary levels on the ITBS, even exceeding the National Reference Group Norms at all grade levels.

Middle Schools

At the middle school levels, where only five years ago no subject at any grade met or exceeded the large city norms, the ITBS scores show strong improvement. The five subject matters in three grades generate fifteen points of comparison. The KCMSD meets or exceeds large city norms in eleven of those points, including science which again substantially exceeds that norm at all three grades. Even measured against the national reference group, science does well, approaching the norm in sixth and eighth grades and meeting it in seventh grade.

There are data that suggest that the elementary students who have had the "full treatment", who started pre-school or kindergarten under the full desegregation plan are the students who have most benefitted academically (an echo of the findings about the beneficial effects of racial integration being more pronounced when started earlier). These data further suggest that such students now entering middle school are bringing better study and learning skills and a higher appreciation for and enjoyment of learning than did the prior generation. If so, within only two or three years, we should see even greater evidence of their advances in achievement.

High Schools

In our high schools, where the students all first started their education before the full implementation of the desegregation plan's educational components, and well before the implementation of the magnet school themes, many of which were phased in beginning with lower grades and essentially followed behind these students during their elementary years, the achievement levels are unacceptably poor. Out of twenty points of comparison, only three meet or exceed large city norms and all are considerably below the national reference group norms.

Other Measures of Achievement

No other quantifiable measures of educational achievement are used in the KCMSD. Nonetheless, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that in many areas KCMSD students are doing quite well. Latin is taught in many of our schools. It is likely that no other urban school district has as many students as we do who know enough Latin to demonstrate their abilities as well in regional contests.

It is virtually certain that no other urban school district has as many students fluent in -- and not just studying -- foreign languages as does the KCMSD. At least a thousand of our kids are fully capable of carrying on conversations with adults in a second language learned in KCMSD schools, and another one or two thousand can manage in a foreign language to understand and be understood.

We have about 9,000 computers for 37,000 students. Although we are facing a serious obsolescence problem, in recent years our students have spent more time on computers, learning about computers, and learning with computers than most other school districts in the nation. Our students have skills, from basic keyboarding (every student in at least grades eight and nine, often earlier) and basic programming to advanced computer science courses where many students are ahead of our best teachers in programming, CADD, and telecommunications and doing work that would be considered advanced at most colleges.

In the arts, for too long neglected as a serious subject for public school instruction, few districts can compare with our accomplishments. From sculpture to painting, from set design to dance, and from singing to playing the violin, our students are winning competitions and scholarships across the state and around the nation by the hundreds. At the same time, the arts seems to be keeping many kids in school who otherwise think they don't fit in and would drop out. But they stay because they are interested, and if they don't stay, they can't learn from us.

Other indicia are positive as well: an African-American male graduated of our college prep program recently won a Rhodes Scholarship; an African-American female won the English Speaking Union's national Shakespeare contest last year; our graduates of all races are enrolled at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Williams and other fine colleges. Our best students are doing much better than ever before. Something works for a lot of our kids.

Other Indicia

The academic efficacy of the magnet schools was also demonstrated to the court in 1993. Comparing students in magnet schools over time with students in nonmagnet schools demonstrates the success so far of the magnet theme schools. Minority students in magnets outscored and out gained minority students over time in nonmagnet schools in 83% of comparisons while nonminority magnet students outscored and out-gained nonminority students in nonmagnet schools in 75% of comparisons. In addition, both minority and nonminority students in magnet programs were significantly more likely to score above national norms than students in nonmagnet schools.

Students in these unique magnet programs are flourishing. They win regional academic contests in Latin. They win engineering contests to build the largest floating concrete boats. They visit schools in Belgium or Germany and participate equally with their non-English speaking hosts.

Programs in art, music and dance, restored by the desegregation plan, have students performing and exhibiting their work throughout the midwest. In many ways not measured by standardized tests, KCMSD students are engaged by learning, they are growing in confidence and acquiring knowledge and skills that will change for the better the directions of their lives. Where else does a poor minority kid have a chance to graduate from school fluent in German and possessing a college level understanding of computers? The full immersion kids who started as kindergartners are now fully fluent in their languages and only in the seventh grade, heading toward a world of opportunities far wider than they otherwise could have dreamed about.

While these academic results are encouraging, they are incomplete. Much remains to be accomplished before the "inferior education" that the district court found to be a vestige of the earlier segregation has been eliminated. The academic achievement of the resident students is important to restore them to the position they would have held had segregation not wreaked havoc with the educational opportunities of the KCMSD. Also, a strong academic record remains critical for racial integration of the district. Students needed for integration will not voluntarily enroll in an inferior district. For these reasons the KCMSD must build upon the modest educational successes it has achieved to date.

The substantial disruptions throughout the district caused by the implementation of the desegregation plan have lessened recently as much of the capital construction is now about 80% completed. Buildings under complete renovation disrupted instruction for long periods of time and in many cases split schools, even some grades, into two or more annex locations. As schools incorporate the changes implemented under the plan and return to normal after construction, there is reason to hope that academic performance will improve.

Mobility Eliminated

In addition, the magnet schools provide stability in education for the poorest of urban students. In recent years it has been the experience that many students from families with no or little income change residences frequently, as often as four or five times a year. Under the prior school organization students most at risk not infrequently went to two or three different schools every year. The magnet schools offer a source of stability that may be the only refuge of many students who live their lives in extreme poverty. Once admitted to a magnet school, students remain enrolled there no matter where they move in the city or how often they move. While it complicates student transportation, it brings continuity of school, principal, teachers, and classmates to students most in need of some measure of stability.

Racial Integration

The data on school integration are especially revealing. During the 1994-95 school year approximately 2,000 nonminority students attended KCMSD schools, drawn from suburban and private schools. Those students balanced the differential birth rate between minority and nonminority students and accounted for the relative stability in enrollment by race in recent years.

The magnet schools have also accounted for a major -- and all voluntary -- redistribution of students within the KCMSD. No school district in the nation has, during the last fifteen years, achieved as much racial integration as has the KCMSD. Virtually all school districts since 1980 have either lost ground and become more segregated or just managed to maintain the status quo. Only the KCMSD has made significant progress toward racial integration, mostly concentrated at the elementary school level.

l in the magnet elementaries, the number of minority students in 90%+ minority schools has been reduced from 4,012 to zero

l in the magnet elementaries, the number of nonminority students in predominantly non-minority schools has gone from 1,459 to zero

l the exposure index for elementary magnet schools has increased from 20 to 32 against a target of 35

l fifteen predominantly white elementary schools have been integrated

l nine 90%+ black schools have been integrated

l 97.7% of magnet and 72.3% of all elementary students attend schools within 15% of elementary average

The gains at middle schools have been less dramatic, but nonetheless important, especially at a time when virtually all other school districts have failed to increase racial integration and many have increased segregation. Our modest achievements include:

l percent of all minority students in 90%+ minority middle schools reduced from 45.2% to 10.5%

l number of 90%+ middle schools reduced from 3 to one

l number of predominantly nonminority middle schools reduced from 2 to zero

l percentage of nonminority students attending pre-dominantly nonminority middle schools decreased from 81.4% to zero

l number of students in schools within 15% of middle school average increased from 23.7% to 100%

Similarly in our high schools there has been some important increase in integration, although far less than desirable. For instance:

l minority students in 90%+ minority schools has been reduced from 42.1 to 32.3%

l students attending schools within 15% of the high school average increased from 41.0% to 81.4%

l exposure index increased from 17 to 21 toward goal of 35

Looking at the district as a whole, the number of 90%+ schools has been reduced from 24 to 15; the percentage of minority students in 90%+ schools has been reduced from 47.8% to 26.5%; the number of predominantly nonminority schools has been reduced from 15 to zero; the percentage of nonminority students in predominantly nonminority schools has been reduced from 45.2% to zero; the percentage of students attending schools within 15% of race by school level increased from 26.9% to 54.7%; number of students within 15% of the district-wide level increased from 27.9% to 80.1%; and the overall exposure index of the district increased from 19 to 22 toward a maximum of 35 under existing guidelines.

Importantly, all this was accomplished voluntarily by parents and students, without mandatory assignments that would have risked driving students from the district. In fact, the district grew slightly during these ten years, from 36,259 to 37,151, at a time when many urban districts lost enrollment. Indeed, the percentage black enrollment increased only from 68.3% to 68.8%, or .05% per year, at a time when most urban districts experienced substantial increases in the enrollment of their predominant minority.

The number of intensely segregated schools, over 90% minority, has been greatly reduced. Many schools, especially elementary schools, are working as intended to attract a voluntary and integrated enrollment. The exposure index [17] for elementary magnet schools improved from 20.4 to 32.0 between 1985 and 1995.

This substantial increase in integration was spread among virtually all the schools [18]. For example, the two computer schools are both located in all black neighborhoods. In 1984-85 Richardson School was 99.0% minority. For the 1992-93 year it was 80.6% minority. Banneker Computers Unlimited is a brand new school that opened in 1991 year on the site of the old Knotts School. Knotts in 1984-85 was 99.6% minority. Banneker in 1992-93 was 63.1% minority. Knotts itself became an environmental science school and moved several blocks to a new facility bordering a park and river suitable for its theme. Knotts is 71.4% minority in 1993.

At the middle school level, Central Middle School, combining computers and foreign language themes has changed from 99.5% minority in 1984-85 to 78.9% last year. A new magnet middle school with a math/science theme was created at Lincoln Middle School in the heart of the black residential corridor where schools were formerly all black. It is 74.6% minority last year. Similarly, a new arts middle school was created that is 64% minority. The worst middle school in the district four years ago was King Middle School. It converted to a Latin Grammar theme [19] and last year ranked fourth academically in the district. In two years it has gone from all black to 76.9% minority, and its entering sixth grade class last year was 60.3% minority, even though it is located in what is generally perceived to be the worst neighborhood in the city.

At the high school level, the college preparatory school, the only magnet school with entrance requirements, changed from over 80% minority to the target 60% in its first year in 1986 and has remained at that ratio since. The arts high school, in the new Paseo Arts facility is on target with 58.7% minority, a major change from 1984-85 when it was 99.6% minority.

For middle schools there has also been dramatic progress toward desegregation. The number of highly segregated schools has been reduced from three to two; four new middle schools have opened with significant racial integration (Middle School of the Arts, 64.3% minority; Rogers Liberal Arts Academy, 66.0%; Lincoln Science/Math, 74.6% [20]; and Robeson Classical Greek Academy, 85.5% minority); and the number of minority students in severely segregated schools has declined from 45.2% to 23.7%.

In the high schools the same progress is evident. The number of severely segregated schools has declined from three to two and the percentage of minority students in such schools has declined from 42.1% to 21.7%.

Before the desegregation plan was implemented the KCMSD was experiencing a rapid increase in the concentration of minority students every year. Since 1985 that has stopped and the KCMSD has experienced a virtually level ratio of 75:25 minority to nonminority students. Stopping the deepening concentration was a major first accomplishment, and it has had important demographic effects, discussed below. Causing the voluntary redistribution of students within the KCMSD to lower the incidence of racially isolated schools has also been substantially achieved, an important second step. The third, and more difficult, goal is to reverse the enrollment trends that have been in place for forty years.

Effects On Area Demography

At the 1993 magnet renewal hearing, the plaintiffs and the KCMSD presented data from the 1990 census that suggests that the desegregation and magnet school plans, instituted starting in 1985, had positively affected demographic trends within the school districts. Prof. Gary Orfield, of Harvard, testified that historically in the United States when a white neighborhood experiences significant changes in race, the process of racial transformation in such neighborhoods accelerates until the areas are virtually all minority. Kansas City experienced just such radical transformations between 1958 and 1973, as described above.

Dr. Orfield noted, however, that based on census data from 1970 through 1990, there were more than a score of census tracts that had experienced significant racial transformation in the 1970s but -- contrary to the national experience -- had a reduced rate of racial transformation in the 1980s. He found that this lower rate of change was not the result of those census tracts running out of whites as the transformation neared completion. Instead, the tracts in 1990 still had significant numbers of whites remaining. Orfield testified that it was too early to reach conclusions -- and that more detailed study was needed -- but that his preliminary findings suggested that the magnet schools, the only significant change between the 1970s and the 1980s, may have caused this phenomenon.

A realtor active in the midtown area of Kansas City testified that in 1980 most families with school age children were moving out, that it was impossible to sell homes to white families with school aged children, and that of those children who remained almost all attended private and parochial schools. Since 1985, the realtor testified, the situation had changed completely. Families are no longer selling as their children reach school age, families with children are again buying homes, and almost all children are enrolled in the magnet schools. The realtor attributed these changes entirely to the desegregation plan in effect since 1985.

Judge Clark, in his order of April 16, 1993 extending the magnet school program, made the following findings after reviewing the evidence and considering the arguments of the parties:

The KCMSD magnet school program has had some impact upon residential choices of Kansas Citians. There is evidence that because of the magnet schools some parents of white students who would earlier have moved out of the KCMSD have stayed and enrolled their children in the magnet schools. [21]

There is thus some substantial basis for optimism that the KCMSD desegregation plan is beginning to influence positively demographic trends and that, if continued, the plan may well bring profound benefits to the community.

The Benefits of Racial Integration

Most research in this field has been financed by the U.S. Department of Education, and it predecessors, and was commissioned before 1981. Post-1981 research, however, has not significantly questioned the validity of the earlier work.

Academic Achievement While in School

Virtually all studies have found that racial integration in public schools has resulted in academic improvement:

the bulk of the data to date support the notion that school desegregation, concerning academic achievement, may improve minority achievement and either has no effect or a positive effect on white achievement.

(Streitmatter, 1988, at 285). While racial integration in public schools has not been found to eliminate the black/white achievement gap, it has consistently been found to improve for blacks on all measures of achievement, with markedly greater gains found in those who benefitted from integration at younger ages.

Post Secondary School Benefits

Assimilation. Braddock (1985) found that school integration was the most powerful of all models of social policy that resulted in lifetime social integration, including school, work, career, neighborhood, and personal friendships. Adults who had attended integrated schools were found to be far more likely to have close friends of other races and to work with persons of other races than adults who had attended segregated schools. This assimilation effect was found in adults of all races, not just among blacks.

Education. Students, black and white alike, in integrated schools are more likely to graduate from high school, attend integrated colleges, and graduate from college than students in segregated schools. These effects were found to be more pronounced for northern blacks, but southern blacks who attended integrated high schools were more likely to attend integrated colleges.

Work and Income. Black students, especially males, from integrated schools earned higher incomes and seemed to receive other "labor-market advantages" over those from segregated schools. Those advantages consisted of

1) access to useful social networks for job information, contacts, and sponsorship; 2) socialization for entrance into nontraditional careers with higher incomes; 3) development of interpersonal skills useful in interracial contexts; 4) reduced social inertia, i.e., increased willingness to participate in desegregated environments; 5) avoidance of negative stereotypes that employers often associate with "black" institutions.

Braddock, 1985, at 19. There is evidence that whites also benefit economically from some of the same socialization processes; e.g., they benefit at work from interpersonal skills in interracial contexts. Both blacks and whites from integrated schools seem more likely as adults to own their own homes, a sign of both improved earnings and social and family stability.

Career Attainment. Both blacks and whites who attended integrated schools, over the course of their careers, seem to have been more likely to leave jobs for better opportunities and greater earnings than graduates of segregated schools, perhaps due to social networks in the job-seeking process. McPartland and Crain, 1980.

Community-wide Issues

Housing and Community Life. The evidence is equivocal on the relationship between desegregation plans for schools and family moves to integrated neighborhoods. Clark (1987, 1988) finds little support for a "reciprocal relationship between schools and housing". But Roussel (1987) documents relocations of families into area districts where children were assigned to schools in the Louisville-Jefferson County plan, and confirms some much earlier studies. There is evidence that later in life, i.e., not related to moves caused by school desegregation plans, blacks and whites alike who attended racially integrated schools are more likely to live in racially integrated neighborhoods.

Cultural Issues. It should be noted that some African-Americans have produced a body of literature, more theoretical than empirical, that argues that racial integration requires blacks to agree that association with the "dominant culture results in more desirable status and beliefs", Dempsey and Noblit, 1993, at 319, or that conformance to the expectations of the majority culture exacts too high a price in African-American identity in return for a promise of economic success that has too often been unfulfilled.

Some Thoughts

While the magnet schools are still being implemented as students who entered at the lowest grade are moving up the grades, and while considerably more time is needed for them to demonstrate their educational and desegregative efficacy, the early evidence points strongly to the conclusion that parents will send their students to good schools offering specialized themes that are of interest to students and parents regardless of where those schools are located.

Given enough time and resources to complete the implementation and incubation of these programs, Kansas City should be able to show that inner city students from low or no income families can learn in school and that white middle class parents will send their children to inner city schools in substantial numbers for good public education. If successful, the Kansas City effort will demonstrate how public education can work for inner city youth and how racial integration can be achieved voluntarily, with stability and permanence, unlike the transitory desegregation achieved mandatorily in other cities.

Epilogue (1996)

On June 12, 1995 the Supreme Court decided Missouri v. Jenkins, 115 S. Ct. 2573 (1995) (Jenkins III). By a five to four majority, the Court held that the Kansas City desegregation plan had been improperly based on "desegregative attractiveness" and "suburban comparability". This was improper, the Supreme Court held, because the violations in the case had only been intradistrict in nature. Consequently, the remedy could not seek to attract suburban students because that would be an interdistrict remedy, exceeding the bounds of the violation.

As a result, the KCMSD ceased recruiting new suburban students but allows those already enrolled to continue in the KCMSD. Meanwhile, the State of Missouri has asked the district court to declare KCMSD unitary, i.e., to find that all vestiges of its prior violation have been eliminated to the extent practicable, and to halt all remedial programs and state desegregation payments to KCMSD. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for January, 1997.


     [1]Even after Shelly Missouri continued to enforce the covenants until Barrow v. Jackson, 346 U.S. 249 (1953).

     [2] Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 267 (1977).

     [3] The initial remedy orders were affirmed in 1986, Jenkins v. Missouri, 807 F.2d 657 (8th Cir. 1986)(en banc), and the magnet school and capital improvement orders were affirmed in 1988, Jenkins, 855 F.2d 1295 (8th Cir. 1988).

     [4] The earnings tax was generating revenue at an annual rate of about $30 million when it was overturned. Taxes paid pursuant to it and under protest pursuant to Missouri statutes were refunded. As joint and severally liable defendants, the State of Missouri defendants, as a result of their victory in the court of appeals, assumed responsibility for the payment of the $30 million share of KCMSD's desegregation costs. To aid the school district in paying its share of desegregation expenses, the Missouri legislature could create legislatively the authority for this new tax, as the district court could not create it judicially. Having failed to do so, Missouri has to date paid some $240 million of Kansas City's expenses that the court tried unsuccessfully to enable the school district to pay.

     [5] The Supreme Court denied certiorari on the question of the extent and scope of the remedy for Kansas City, including review of the magnet school and capital improvement components of that remedy.

     [6] Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989) (attorneys fees) and Missouri v. Jenkins, 110 S.Ct. 1651 (1990) (tax authority).

     [7] Jenkins v. Missouri, 807 F.2d 657 (8th Cir. 1986)(en banc), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 816 (1987) (Jenkins I) (denying interdistrict relief, affirming in part and modifying in part first remedy order); 838 F.2d 260 (8th Cir. 1988) (first attorneys fee opinion), 491 U.S. 274 (1989); 855 F.2d 1295 (8th Cir. 1988) (Jenkins II) (magnets, CIP and tax opinion), Cert denied in part, 490 U.S. 1034 (1989) and aff'd in part, 110 S.Ct. 1651 (1990); 862 F.2d 677 (8th Cir. 1988) (Year II attorneys fees, political activity issue); 890 F.2d 65 (8th Cir. 1989) (Jenkins III) (creation of DMC, magnet transportation, Year 4 class size); 900 F.2d 1174 (8th Cir. 1990) (withdrawn); 904 F.2d 415 (8th Cir.)(Jenkins IV)(VIT and Naylor issues), cert. denied, 111 S.Ct. 346 (1990); 931 F.2d 470 (8th Cir. 1991) (Jenkins V) (affirming Central High, drawdown, Landmark disqualification orders), cert denied, 112 S.Ct. 437 (1991); 931 F.2d 1273 (8th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S.Ct. 388 (October 21, 1991) (post-judgment interest on attorneys fees); 942 F.2d 486 (8th Cir. 1991) (Jenkins VI) (affirming contingent placement policy); 943 F.2d 840 (8th Cir. 1991) (Jenkins VII) (affirming denial of State's motion to raise taxes); 949 F.2d 1052 (8th Cir. 1991) (Jenkins VIII) (affirming district court's denial of State's motion for CIP funding relief); 962 F.2d 1052 (8th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 322 sub nom. Clark v. Jenkins (affirming tax refund order); 965 F.2d 654 (8th Cir. 1992)(affirming tuition rate for Missouri City VIT); 967 F.2d 1245 (8th Cir. 1992). cert. denied 113 S.Ct. 811 sub nom. Clark v. Jenkins (dismissing appeal of intervenors' attempted challenge to tax levy funding 1990 salary settlement); 967 F.2d 1248 (8th Cir. 1992)(attorneys fees for defending intervenors' challenges); 981 F.2d 1009 (8th Cir. 1992) (Jenkins XII)(remand for hearing on North Kansas City VIT plan); 11 F.3d 755 (8th Cir. 1993)(Jenkins XIII)(affirming 1992 salary and Milliken remedy extensions and rejecting unitary status argument), reh'g denied, 19 F.3d 393 (1994); cert. granted, September 26, 1994; 13 F.3d 1170 (8th Cir. 1993)(Jenkins XIV)(affirming 1993 salary order), reh'g denied, 19 F.3d 393 (1994); cert. granted, September 26, 1994; 23 F.3d 1297 (8th Cir. 1994)(affirming 1993 Milliken Programs); 38 F.3d 960 (8th Cir. 1994)(affirming denial of NKC VIT plan and reversing ShareNet order).

     [8] School District of Kansas City, Missouri v. Missouri, 438 F. Supp. 830 (W.D. Mo. 1977) (refusal order); School District of Kansas City, Missouri v. Missouri, 460 F. Supp. 421 (W.D. Mo. 1978) (overruling in part and granting in part motions dismissing and realigning parties); Black v. State of Missouri, 492 F. Supp. 848 (W.D. Mo. 1980) (denial of motion to disqualify plaintiffs' attorneys); Jenkins v. Missouri, 593 F. Supp. 1485 (W.D. Mo. 1984) (violations opinion); 639 F. Supp. 19 (W.D. Mo. 1985) (June, 1985 and June, 1986 remedy orders); 672 F. Supp. 400 (W.D. Mo. 1987) (capital improvements and tax order); 731 F. Supp. 1437 (W.D. Mo. 1990) (awarding post-judgment interest on attorneys fees).

     [9] The index of docket entries now exceeds 3,500 pleadings filed in the district court.

     [10] School District of Kansas City, Missouri v. Missouri, 592 F.2d 493 (8th Cir. 1979) (dismissing appeal of realignment of the parties); In re Jackson County, 834 F.2d 150 (8th Cir. 1987) (denying writ of prohibition on tax order); Rivarde v. State of Missouri, 930 F.2d 641 (8th Cir. 1991); Pennell v. Collector of Revenue, 703 F. Supp. 82 (W.D. Mo. 1989); Naylor v. Lee's Summit Reorganized School District R-7, 703 F. Supp. 803 (W.D. Mo. 1989), rev'd sub nom. Jenkins v. Missouri, 904 F.2d 415 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 111 S.Ct. 346 (1990).

     [11] A multi-year extension was in the early planning stage when the "cease-fire" partial settlement was reached in February, 1995 and it may be presented to the Desegregation Monitoring Committee and then the district court, seeking a seven to ten year extension, if settlement talks fail.

     [12] In July, 1990 all parties agreed to a stipulation that provided $68 million over two years for salary increases for all school district employees; teachers averaged 22% increases that brought them to salary levels comparable to those paid in other area districts. The funds came equally from the State of Missouri and from an increase in the local property tax of 96 cents. That funding expired on June 30, 1992. That salary order was extended for one year without raises for KCMSD employees. On June 30, 1993 the district court entered an order that provided for modest increases for all KCMSD employees through June 30, 1996.

     [13] These components included a voluntary interdistrict transfer (VIT) plan for minority students transferring to surrounding districts at the State's expense. The State, given the responsibility for establishing such a program and encouraging suburban district participation, has not fulfilled its obligations. After additional litigation, a school district with 110 students accepted ten KCMSD minority students who are now attending the Missouri City School District in the second year of this VIT plan. Twenty KCMSD minority students presently attend school in Missouri City. The other interdistrict component permits nonminority students living in Missouri outside the Kansas City District to attend Kansas City magnet schools. Over 1,000 such students now do so.

     [14] E.g., the educational component provides for reduced class sizes, all-day kindergarten, upgraded libraries, and the restoration of art, music, and physical education teachers.

     [15] Magnet schools have themes designed to offer distinctive subject areas around which the basic core curriculum is still offered. Kansas City magnet schools have over twenty themes including Computers Unlimited, Visual and Performing Arts, Immersion Foreign Languages, Environmental Studies, Engineering and Technology, Math/Science, and College Prep.

     [16] How much a student gains in achievement during a year of instruction. Theoretically, a student should gain a year in test scores for a year of instruction.

     [17] The percent nonminority enrollment in schools attended by typical minority student.

     [18] In addition, all six elementary schools that were 90% or more minority in 1985 have minority enrollments below that measure of intense segregation.

     [19] Students wear school provided uniforms, study Latin, sign with their parents a contract governing discipline and homework, and have the opportunity to participate in after-school and Saturday academy tutoring.

     [20]This school is being phased out to enable expansion of Lincoln College Prep which presently is at 61.4% minority.

     [21] Order of April 16, 1993 at 9.