Is busing to integrate school still necessary?
July 14, 1998
in this forum:
Shouldn't qualified teachers at all schools end the busing debate? Does busing solve inequities or promote resentment? Can people in racially separated areas still work in a diverse environment? Should schools and students be placed in schools according to merit instead of racial background? Does busing allow kids of different races to learn to work together? Tom Havelos of Todd, NC asks: I grew up in Charlotte and experienced the busing program. Isn't the real problem with teachers and salaries? Shouldn't having qualified teachers at all Charlotte schools resolve this debate?
Bill James, Mecklenburg county commissioner, responds:
Teachers' salaries are not the "problem" with busing. The problem is that Black leaders in Charlotte fear that without busing, they will return to the past of government sponsored discrimination. 30 years ago, "Separate but unequal" meant that the government forced black children past nearby well kept white schools to dilapidated black ones. That was wrong. Now, Charlotte's school board buses black and white children past nearby schools to achieve racial quotas. That is equally wrong.
Charlotte's citizens recently passed a $415 million bond package to insure that ALL schools are equal. Even in the face of public sentiment supporting neighborhood schools that are ALL equal, the school board continues to classify children on the basis of race. I believe that people (even children) should be measured based on the "content of their character not he color of their skin" to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Charlotte's school board thinks skin color matters most. Their preoccupation with race permeates every thing they do.
Dennis Rash, NationsBank senior vice president, responds:
Improving the teaching quality is certainly a real need--probably in every school system. The question seems to me whether the court supervision and busing should be withdrawn while the complex problem of recruiting, training, compensating and retaining more good teachers is being resolved. I personally fear that could lead to a re-segregated system.
Teacher training and stronger teacher compensation alone will not, I believe, address the core problem of housing patterns. While Charlotte has made much progress in reducing racial and ethnic barriers to housing parity, we can't claim victory yet.