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Long Beach Segregation Suit Challenges State Policy

Times Staff Writer

Challenging a state policy that provides funds only to those school systems with court-ordered desegregation plans, the Long Beach Unified School District sued the state Thursday in an attempt to recover $28 million spent to desegregate its schools.

The district, one of 34 in California which unsuccessfully applied for $95 million in state reimbursements, claims in its Los Angeles Superior Court suit that schools which voluntarily adopted programs to integrate minority students are entitled, under state law, to the same state aid as those districts under court order to desegregate.

The state Board of Education, since 1977, has required school districts to identify potential areas of segregation and adopt plans to control racial isolation, but it only began paying for such voluntary programs two years ago.

While the state Board of Control ruled that Long Beach and other districts were legally eligible to be reimbursed, the Legislature never appropriated the $95 million.

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The state’s primary reasoning for denying the money has been that the 1977 regulations told school districts they had to adopt a plan for desegregation if necessary, but they never ordered them to implement it, said Judy Smith, staff member for the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

“This is more or less a social responsibility for all school districts, not something that needed to be mandated by the state . . .,” Smith said.

The Legislature decided to begin reimbursing school districts which were voluntarily desegregating their schools two years ago, after it became clear that many districts were deliberately seeking court orders simply to qualify for state funding, she said. Since funding was authorized, Long Beach has received about $7.3 million in reimbursements, Smith said.


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