School busing is in the news as a result of the first presidential debate (“There’s a Reason We Don’t Say ‘Integration’ Anymore” The New York Times, Jul. 9). Once again those who criticize busing are depicted as racists. I don’t agree.
In the late 1970s, the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I taught for my entire 28-year career, began forced busing after court attempts to block it failed. Although most parents were not fans of the policy, they were willing to give it a chance in the interest of fairness. But it soon became evident that students who were bused in brought with them huge deficits in academic achievement and socialization.
Teachers were forced to jettison lesson plans that had worked so well in the past to design new ones to meet the needs and interests of bused-in students. Parents complained that the quality of instruction suffered to the point that their children were bored to tears. As a result, they began to pull their children out and enroll them in private or religious schools.
At no time did I see evidence that their decision was racially motivated. They just were concerned that their children were being shortchanged. I don’t blame them. How many parents are willing to sacrifice their children’s education on the altar of ideology? Recognizing the strength of the opposition, the Legislature in 1979 placed on the ballot Proposition 1, which effectively ended forced busing.
The district subsequently stepped up its efforts to promote its magnet schools. It instituted a program known as Permits With Transportation. The program has had notable academic success, although it has not achieved its goal of complete integration. I still think magnet programs deserve far greater emphasis as a reasonable compromise.
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