Ruling is due in P.G. busing case by June 1 Arguments conclude in desegregation trial

December 20, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

The monthlong trial to determine the future of court-ordered busing in Prince George's County concluded yesterday with calls for state and local politicians to finance improvements to the beleaguered school system.

Noting that "there are political issues at play," U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte said he will decide whether to end his supervision of the school system's desegregation program by June 1 -- after the state and Prince George's budgets are approved.

County schools were placed under federal stewardship 25 years ago, when a judge agreed with a group of parents and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that Prince George's had made little effort to eliminate segregation.

Since then, the student population has gone from three-quarters white to three-quarters black. The top-ranking elected officials -- from county executive to school board chairman -- also are black.

Patricia A. Brannan, a lawyer for the NAACP, asked Messitte to continue his supervision until school and county officials draft a plan -- including money to pay for it -- to deal with the deficiencies found in the school system's lowest-income, predominantly black schools near Washington.

Al Lindseth, a lawyer for the county, said changing demographics made busing "outdated and outmoded," and urged Messitte to dismiss the case and return the schools to local control -- without addressing the issue of funding for improvements.

He argued that the NAACP and school board will never settle the case as long as they feel Messitte might order a financial commitment from the state and county.

This week, County Executive Wayne K. Curry said he would seek $230 million in local money and $253 million in state aid over five years to build 15 neighborhood schools and expand 29 others, reduce teacher-student ratios and expand programs for at-risk youngsters.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has promised to help Prince George's with school construction, but has not said how much he will commit.

Pub Date: 12/20/97

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