by James Agresti
During the second Democratic presidential debate, Kamala Harris stated that Joe Biden was “wrong to oppose busing” and equated this to support for racial segregation. In reality, supporters of integration broadly opposed busing because of its downsides.
After busing was implemented in the early 1970s, national polls found that 84% of whites and 92% of blacks thought that students of all races should attend school together, but only 15% of whites and 40% of blacks supported busing. This is because the policy involved:
- quotas to achieve specific numbers of black, white, and Latino students in certain schools.
- removing children from their neighborhood schools and busing them to other schools, often via long commutes that made it hard for them to participate in extracurricular activities.
- court-ordered mergers of urban and suburban school districts.
- in at least one case, forcing all children in a district to change schools at least once during grades K to 5.
Hence, Congressional Quarterly reported in 1975: “Many of the people who once supported busing as educationally and socially beneficial to both races are questioning or even forsaking it as a remedy.”
Busing also forced children to attend schools that were often run by politicians who their parents did not elect. In regard to this:
- white voters favor Republicans over Democrats by an average margin of 1.2 to 1.
- black voters favor Democrats over Republicans by an average margin of 9.2 to 1.
- Latino voters favor Democrats over Republicans by an average margin of 2.2 to 1.
Harris, Bernie Sanders, and many other progressives blame funding inequalities for the poor academic outcomes of minority students in Democrat-dominated schools. However, since the early 1970s, school districts with high portions of minority students have spent about the same average amount per student as school districts with small portions of minority students.
Also, contrary to claims that minorities are intellectually inferior or crippled by racism, empirical and anecdotal facts show that with competent schooling, students of all races can and do excel. A prime example is Public School 172 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York, which in 2009 had:
- a mainly Hispanic population.
- one-third of the students not fluent in English and no bilingual classes.
- 80% of the students poor enough to qualify for free lunch.
- lower spending per student than the New York City average.
- the highest average math score of all fourth graders in New York City, with 99% of the students scoring “advanced.”
- the top-dozen English scores of all fourth graders in New York City, with 99% of students passing.
These facts challenge common rationalizations for racial gaps in educational performance. Similarly, Harris’ claim that opposition to busing equates to support for racial segregation has no basis in reality.
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James D. Agresti is the president of Just Facts, a think tank dedicated to publishing rigorously documented facts about public policy issues.
Photos “Kamala Harris” and “That Little Girl Was Me” by Kamala Harris.