The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide if a federal court can impose a tax increase on citizens of a local school district to pay for a desegregation plan.
The court will hear arguments next term in the case brought by the state of Missouri seeking review of a ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.The court's action comes in the longstanding school desegregation suit from Kansas City, first filed in 1977 by the Kansas City School District, and a group of children charging the state had maintained segregated schools in the district and failed to desegregate them.
The case took various twists and turns before federal courts found the school system was a segregated dual system and ordered a remedial plan to desegregate. The wide-ranging plan called for such things as upgrading the physical condition of the schools, hiring new teachers and creating magnet schools to attract more white students.
The cost of the programs was estimated to be about $260 million.
Part of the cost was to be paid by the state with the rest to be paid by the school district. In September 1987, U.S. District Judge Russell Clark ordered a property tax increase and an income tax surcharge to help pay for the desegregation plan. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer overturned the order imposing the surcharge, but let stand the property tax increase.
The state of Missouri and other organizations, including the Landmark Legal Foundation, have argued the order is unconstitutional, saying the judge does not have the authority to impose a surcharge or order a tax increase.
The state also has argued that the school desegregation plan is far more expensive and encompassing than what is necessary to remedy the segregation of Kansas City schools.
In related separate actions, the court refused to review two cases brought by a group of taxpayers and Jackson County, Mo., which would collect the taxes. Both had sought permission to intervene in the case. Courts refused the request and the Supreme Court refused to review those orders.
In other action, the court:
-Refused to become involved in a lawsuit brought by the Philippines against former President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife.
-Agreed to decide if it is constitutional for a judge to tell a jury that sympathy must not enter into its decision to sentence a person to death.
-Agreed to decide if deposits required by a utility to ensure payment of future bills represent taxable income in a case brought by the government involving Indianapolis Power and Light Co.