House Panel Supports Busing for Desegregation
Washington--Busing for school desegregation, the subject of several rancorous Congressional hearings and debates last fall, has received a strong vote of approval from the Democratic majority members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights.
In a report based on 10 days of testimony from educators, scholars, politicians, and civil-rights advocates, the subcommittee concluded that the busing of students for racial balance "achieves a degree of desegregation that is unattainable through other means."
"Numerous communities have peacefully and successfully desegregated their school systems; the fruits of that effort are now being realized by millions of students," said the report, which was issued last week by the subcommittee chairman, Don Edwards, Democrat of California.
The report also warned that "the strategies and actions of this Administration suggest a wholesale legal, financial, and moral abandonment of the goal of school desegregation." It cited the Justice Department's position against busing and the elimination of federal support for voluntary desegregation as evidence of "a negative force, providing solace to those who have violated and will continue to violate among the most important laws of this nation."
The subcommittee report was issued at a decisive moment for the future of school desegregation. An anti-busing bill passed by the Senate is pending before the House Judiciary Committee, which must vote on whether to send the bill to the House floor for a vote.
The report received the support of the subcommittee's other Democratic members, Robert Kastenmeier of Wisconsin, Patricia Schroeder of Colorado, and Harold Washington of Illinois. The dissenting views of the Republican members were also included. In a separate section, Representatives Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, Dan Lungren of California, and F. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin contended that school busing has resulted in "disaster."
They urged their colleagues not "to ignore the crippling effect that busing can have, and has had, on many of our nation's secondary school systems."
In issuing the report, the subcommittee sought mainly to contribute to "a better understanding of how to make a desegregation plan 'work' for the students and the community," the document states. Among its findings were:
"Local leadership can make or break a desegregation plan." Conversely, "the absence of community involvement and consultation, even when self-imposed, breeds public resentment to a court order, even where the methods of desegregation are not in themselves onerous."
"Desegregation usually does lead to improved scholastic achievement scores. The overwhelming consensus amongst researchers is that test scores of minority students in desegregated schools usually increase--particularly when ... desegregation begin[s] in the first grade.... White students often score higher, but in any event, have not scored lower following desegregation."
"The benefits of school desegregation extend beyond the classroom to employment opportunities. Blacks who have attended desegregated schools are more likely to wind up in higher-paying careers. This occurs because these graduates tend to find jobs through the same informal network of information, contacts, and sponsorship that are available to whites but not to minorities in segregated schools."
"Desegregation has been a catalyst for educational improvements. The decision to desegregate--voluntarily or involuntarily--usually has forced a constructive examination of the school system, and has provided an impetus for effective innovations. Likewise, desegregation brings 'out the warts' in a school system. Parents may be dissatisfied with desegregated schools not because they are inferior, but because [the parents] demand an improved education in return for their children's participation in a desegregation plan."
"White flight from city public schools is a longstanding trend attributable to many factors, including the attractions of suburban living and the declining birth rate. That increment caused by desegregation has been grossly overesti-mated by critics of desegregation."
"Less than 7 percent of those children [who ride buses to school], or 3.6 percent of the total number of schoolchildren, are bused for the purpose of desegregation. The costs of busing have also been grossly misperceived by the public. In fact only about .2 percent of the total budget for public schools is used for busing for school desegregation."
Copies of the report, "School Desegregation," are available free of charge from: House Judiciary Document Room, B-370-B Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.
Vol. 01, Issue 28