NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Districts Seek Alternatives To Busing

June 3, 1999

Controversial from the start, court-ordered busing of children to distant schools to achieve racial balance has been a notable failure in many areas and school officials as well as parents are searching for alternatives.

  • Although the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina 30 years ago became the first in the country to have court-ordered busing, officials there report that 42 schools in the system were not racially balanced last year -- compared to just seven non-complying schools in 1979.
  • Its busing order having been canceled in 1995, Denver has gone back to the neighborhood system under which all students are assigned to the school closest to their homes -- unless they choose to attend a magnet school.
  • Some school districts in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Georgia and Illinois are opting for a "controlled choice" plan, under which residents are divided into several school attendance zones -- all racially mixed -- and parents choose a school within their zone.

Observers report that forced busing remains unpopular. The long rides often exhaust children -- who sometimes pass as many as four or five schools before reaching their own. Busing children out of their neighborhoods disconnects parents from schools and diminishes the community's sense of unity.

Source: "Stopping the School Bus," Economist, May 29, 1999.


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