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Desegregation Bill Passes House Education Committee

April 22, 1998
By: Margaret Murphy
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - An attempt to cut St. Louis schools from a desegregation bill so Kansas City schools could be guaranteed money failed Tuesday in the House Education Committee.

The amendment was offered by Rep. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, who said that he wanted to separate payments to Kansas City, which has settled its desegregation lawsuit, from payments to St. Louis, which has not.

The amendment was part of a comprehensive desegregation bill, which is working its way through the legislature. The bill is designed in part to encourage a settlement in the St. Louis desegregation case, by showing the 20 parties involved in the lawsuit that the state will continue some payments to the district after a settlement is reached. Right now, the state spends about $260 million annually in court-ordered payments to the two districts. Shields' amendment would have sent $30 million annually to Kansas City.

Payments are scheduled to end to Kansas City in June 1999. Shields said tying the entire bill up on the predication that an agreement would be reached in St. Louis jeopardized Kansas City, because if there was no agreement, no payments would go to Kansas City and the school district could be at risk of financial collapse.

Shields' amendment failed, but the bill passed the committee, 14-9. Next the bill will be debated by all 163 members of the House. One issue certain to come up will be whether to allow charter schools in Missouri. The version of the desegregation bill the Senate has passed included allowing charter schools in Kansas City and St. Louis, but the House version currently includes no such language.

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