Forced bussing is good. We should bring it back.

The vastly oversimplified story of the desegregation of American schools goes roughly like this:

  1. School segregation, in many places required by law.
  2. The Supreme Court recognizes the harms that result from segregation and orders desegregation.
  3. White flight, encouraged and facilitated by government policy, exacerbates residential segregation.
  4. As a result of neighborhood catchment policies, many schools are within a few percentage points of the racial composition they had before Brown.

Some areas attempted to overcome neighborhood segregation with bussing programs. But the Supreme Court’s ruling in Milliken was the death knell for that in most places. The dissent in that case was right. It should be regarded as the Plessy v. Ferguson of the 20th century and overturned.

The segregation that exists today is very damaging. It means the typical black student is attending a school that receives less funding than a typical white student. It also means poverty is concentrated in those same schools that receive less funding. The racial homogeneity also harms the education of both black and white students, and the performance of both groups increases with integration.

We should go back to policies that send kids to school outside their neighborhoods, in the interest of better education and racial equality. Indeed, as technology gets better, we may be able to use the time spent on the bus–the most significant downside to this approach–to further educational interests.

Tell me why I’m wrong.

The government should not be categorizing people by race for the purpose of treating them differently, depending on which race they belong to. Also, parents should not be stripped of being the primary decision makers as to which schools their children go to.

Better to change the way we fund schools. Dissociate the funding from local property taxes and fund them, at the state level, from the general fund. Individual public schools are not allowed to accept private donations-- all private donations go into the general fund to be distributed among all the schools.

You’re still going to get the problem of more wealthy people sending their kids to private schools, but nowhere near the level that busing will cause.

Your The Atlantic link won’t let me read it unless I disable AdBlock, which I don’t want to do. Can you quote the relevant sections?

How far are kids going to be bused? How much time will they spend on the bus?

There are areas where busing a child to a racially diverse area would mean they’d arrive at school in time to be bused home.

I think busing did a lot of good for disadvantaged kids. I’m sure there are good and bad ways to implement it, but I’m generally in favor of the OP’s sentiment. It was ended because so many white parents were unhappy that their kids might be in school with poor black kids, and those white parents had more political influence than those whose kids were actually helped by the policy.

Per-pupil spending in Detroit Public Schools - $15,459
Per-pupil spending in Fairfax County Virginia - $13,718
My local Roman Catholic school - $8,000

Detroit already spends more money per student than Fairfax County and WAY more than my local parochial school and has worse outcomes. I don’t think the school funding is the issue.

Is it my duty as a citizen to send my child to a poorer-performing school to help the school do better? Should it be?


“That typical black students are receiving less funding than typical white students.” No, the solution here is that there should be statewide education funding.

Busing takes up student time which could be much better spent on education.

Busing usually occurs within a particular school district–so parents respond by moving to other districts (in the suburbs).

One other thing: Force bussing is wildly unpopular. I’m thinking it might stray into “vast majority opposition” territory (per my definition). For the Democrats to propose such a plan would be political suicide, possibly even leading to a 2nd term of President Trump. I’m not even sure that my proposal would be less contentious enough that it would prevent the same fate from happening to the Democrats.

I’m not always worried about backlash when pursuing the right course of action, but in this case it would seem like the height of folly to pursue the plan of action proposed in the OP (which I don’t even think is “right”). What are you going to do when people refuse to identify which race they belong to? I would certainly take that course of action. There has to be be a better way.

There was a This American Life podcast about a desegregation experiment that had to do with bussing that I listened to recently,episode 562 The Problem We All Live With. It was quite good.

The reason you are wrong, or not exactly right, is because:
[li]The solution of forced bussing is much more invasive than necessary. [/li][li]It attempts to address the problem of segregation at the end of the cycle, rather than at the beginning. What I mean by that is that people in some areas have self segregated, and rather than addressing the reasons why they may have done that, forced bussing comes in after that has already occurred and attempts to mitigate the impacts, rather than address the causes. [/li][li]I don’t think it would work.[/li][/ol]
Parents will generally do what they think is best for their kid. When choosing where to live, IME education is near the top of the list. If I believed that I could get a better education for my kids by moving, I’d do it in a heartbeat. If this proposal meant that the school my kid goes to starts to perform worse, has to dedicate time and resources it otherwise would not have, then I’d probably move. I can afford it, and everyone else that can would do the same. I chose where I live in part because it discriminates based on income. That means that the kids that go to my school have a minimum level of income else they wouldn’t’ be able to live in the neighborhood. This proposal would just see another shift either to other neighborhoods where bussing isn’t practical, or to private school.

Ultimately if the goal is to normalize funding across schools, then the approach should be towards funding. But schools with lower income populations will always suffer from less funding than those in affluent neighborhoods. Any shortfall in funding at my school is made up in donations. I don’t think this would happen in lower income neighborhoods.

While I generally agree with your post, it’s not really fair to compare private and public school funding since private schools have fewer requirements than public schools do, including not having to accept all students. If you want to compare such funding, at a minimum you need to find a way to normalize for that difference.

It’s too invasive, period. Telling parents “We are going to put your kid on a bus and drive him/her to another part of the city for the benefit of the people there, whether you like it or not,” is wildly unpopular, for readily apparent reasons.

I have seen no evidence that, overall, sending my children to schools outside their neighborhood leads to a better education for my children.

Funding is a red herring.


“Frankly, I’m totally in favor of using federally supported municipal bonds to pay for forced busing of Soviet Communists to come into your homes to kill your puppies!” – Frank Noland

We did busing before and it was very controversial. Were the results worth it?

Hey! Lots of people have strong feelings on this one. Good.

Yes, they should, when it is to remedy past discrimination. The idea that we would systematically harm one race for centuries and then within a very short span of time up and decide that we cannot remedy that legacy because it would involve race-based discrimination is pernicious nonsense.

I am not advocating the abolition of private schools. Nor am I advocating that restructuring of public schools be done by some kind of all-powerful dictator. I am saying that voters should favor these policies.

I agree. But this would not solve the problem of racial segregation resulting from decades of racial covenants, race-based lending, racist public housing policies, and all the rest.

The article is just substantiating my (uncontroversial, I think) claim about the segregation outcomes of the current system.

A reasonable amount of time. I would say less than an hour. If that’s not enough for some areas, so be it. But it is enough for a whole lot of areas.

Does your parochial school have to admit disabled students? What about students who speak English as a second language? What is the proportion of those students in the three schools? By what measure do you conclude that they have “worse outcomes.” Does it examine how much a student is improved from entry to exit, or is it just static test scores?

I don’t think funding is a panacea. But I think most of the people who dismiss it with the kind of reasoning you offer are justifying their decisions post hoc, rather than it being the real reason they oppose funding.

This assumes the experience would be worse for your child. That is a dubious assumption, given the evidence, and depending on the characteristics of your child. But
I’m not talking about anyone’s citizenship duties. I’m talking about good public policy. Good public policy often involves making some individuals worse off to make many more better off. That fact alone is not a sufficient reason not to favor the policy.

That is only true because of Milliken. In places that distinguished Milliken, bussing was effectively inter-district. And there is no policy reason it could not be so.

I agree. I am not proposing that Democrats adopt this as a party position until more people are persuaded that this is good policy.

What are the less invasive options that are as effective?

I’m totally open to addressing neighborhood segregation instead of education segregation.

But if you think educational integration is unpopular…:slight_smile:

I think the evidence is quite strong that the causes of segregation are, primarily, racist policies from the past, not self-segregation. But whatever proportion of the segregation to assign to past policy, how do you propose we address those causes?

We don’t have to speculate. We have some data and experience on this. It worked pretty well until it was abandoned for political reasons.

I agree. Wealthier parents will flee to private schools. Does that so eliminate the effectiveness of bussing that the benefits no longer outweigh the costs? I’m not so sure.

Wouldn’t forced bussing constitute sexual harassment?

Is the goal racial equality, school funding, school outcomes, a mix? I think potential solutions are different for each.

Can you cite the evidence that both groups get a better education when integration is accomplished through forced busing? If this is The Atlantic article, I can’t access it (as I noted above).

If funding is a goal, it’s only an intermediate one on the way to outcomes.

But it is definitely about both equity and outcomes. I’m not convinced that the potential solutions are different for those two goals, however. Segregated schools will never lead to great outcomes (for either side, but especially the students of color).

Separate but equal doesn’t work. It’s time we admit that.

There is a whole literature on the topic. This article fairly summarizes it.

Here’s a research brief with more citations, if you want to explore the evidence.

The only way we have achieved integration through public policy is bussing. And it was knee-capped by SCOTUS. But in still happened in Delaware and Kentucky until the courts finally gave up. Both places had the highest levels of racial integration of anywhere in the nation as a result of the policy.

Almost as bad as mandatory gay marriage.

IMHO, I think you can fix most elementary schools problems with extra money for pre-school; after school programs and summer programs. Sure you will need to watch out for those kids that need extra help coping with some special issue of a shitty home life but you don’t see a crapload of behavior problems in elementary school like you do later on.

After elementary school the problem isn’t mostly resource issue as much as it is disciplinary issues. A small portion of the student population have personality/emotional issues that are either undiagnosed issues that require special attention (which you get in rich suburban neighborhoods) or they have really shitty home lives and they bring those issues to school and take it out on their teachers and fellow students.

Bussing just dilutes the concentration of these kids at shitty schools so that the pond in which your child swims isn’t so toxic that noone except the top 10% can get anything done. Better to identify and separate these kids or figure out some way to get them to participate constructively at school.