The Rockford Files

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

October 26, 2000, dawned pretty much like every other day here in Rockford, Illinois. After ten years of living under the dictatorship of a federal magistrate, we had decided that nothing would ever change. And then something did.

On that glorious Indian summer morning, the Illinois Supreme Court, by a vote of six to one, declared illegal the Rockford School Board's use of the school district's tort fund to pay for "remedies" in the Rockford school-desegregation case, known as People Who Care. Under the Illinois Local Government Employees Tort Immunity Act, a local governmental body can levy taxes "to pay any tort judgment or settlement for compensator,' damages for which . . . it is liable . . . " Since 1991, Rockford's District 205 has raised almost $134 million in tort taxes (and has spent close to a quarter-billion dollars on the desegregation case). The money, however, was not distributed to the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit. Instead, it has been spent on a series of federal-court-ordered programs designed to narrow the achievement gap between white and minority (defined by the court as black and Hispanic) students, and to desegregate District 205 through busing and magnet schools. As a result, Rockford has the third-highest property tax rate in the nation and the most desegregated schools (as you long as you define "desegregation" as "racial quotas" rather...

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