The Battle of Busing
While the current state of public schools in America is economically and racially segregated, resorting to Los Angeles’s busing solution from the 1970s is not the answer for several reasons.
In the late 1970s the Supreme Court ruled that schools that were subject to de facto segregation become racially balanced. The Los Angeles school district and surrounding schools responded to this mandate by busing students who lived in one area to a school in another so that the schools would not be comprised of the same demographic as the neighborhood in which it existed. Because the de facto segregation was largely due to the tendency Americans had to cluster in relation to their socio-economic/ethnic status this seemed a rational solution in order to create schools which were diverse. The goal of the busing program was for schools to have no more than a 60 percent of any one minority or 70 percent of combined minorities. Additionally, a preliminary report for LA schools in 1977 recommended that no ethnic group should constitute less than 30 percent of a student population. In order to make this happen in a short amount of time LA schools created a busing system for students to go to certain schools, thus creating the perfect ethnic ratio of students in these schools. However, parents had a few concerns which prevented the busing to last long in LA districts. They were concerned that a forty-five minute drive was to long for children and that the school which they were moving to might not provide as good of an education as their current school. Teachers also stated that the deadline to adhere was very abrupt and did not provide schools the opportunity to balance their campus on their own terms. Overall, busing children make them and their parents feel like part of a system where their success is out of their control and in the hands of people who might not have their best interest in mind. Some alternative methods might be better suited for all involved.
Throughout all of the years I attended school, in the greater Los Angeles area, I was surrounded by classmates and teachers who had different ethnicities, religions, wealth, cultures and perspectives than my own. From an early age I saw that the world I lived in was big and filled with people with differences. I saw these differences at the center of beautifully balanced friendships and collaborations. I also saw these differences spark anger, conflict, and hurt. From kindergarten onward I had the opportnity to practice real world tolerance, humility, and problem solving. The diversity in my schools was not only present but celebrated and this celebration allowed me to not only freely live out my own uniqueness but unreservedly learn from those with attributes foreign to my own understanding. In light of the learning and personal growth that took place in my early years of education because of this diversity I would undoubtedly support well balanced socio-economic campuses.
I fear that the solution to the ethnic pooling of schools will not be solved quickly or easily, however it can be done. In order for parents and children to feel comfortable with the solution it must be one which allows them to feel in control of their choices and future success. Providing opportunities which naturally create a balanced school is optimal. In order to do this, well funded schools in a variety of locations must be created. Funding for schools often determine what kind of education and opportunities are provided there and, currently, the location of the school is the main factor which determines the amount of funding. Schools must have a different form of funding which is not dependent on location but instead on something which allows for a well funded school in every district or within thirty minutes of each other. This will eradicate the fear of having a poor education in certain areas and will attract people more equally. That still leaves us with the issue that people typically choose an option which is close to home and if neighborhoods are segregated according to class and race then the school will often follow suite. In order to combat this issue, government funded transportation could be provided for those who voluntarily choose to travel to a school different than the one which exists in their neighborhood. Additionally, the ethnic ratios of schools will be tracked and if a gap needs to be filled that group can be targeted with marketing or direct suggestion to families. It is not a perfect solution, however, it might help the issue while allowing students and families to maintain control.