NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Court-Ordered School Busing A Failed Policy

August 20, 1996

There is evidence that federal courts are realizing that the 25-year-old policy of busing to achieve racial balance in schools has not worked as a means for ending segregation or improving the academic performance of minority students. And many school leaders in the 800 school districts under federal desegregation orders are getting tired of it, too. They cite the huge costs involved, which must be paid for from money that might otherwise go to improving academic standards.

  • In Prince George's County, Md. -- a 70 percent black majority area -- the school board recently voted unanimously to ask a federal judge to lift a busing mandate.
  • A federal judge last month announced a full-scale review of desegregation efforts in the county.
  • In the 1990s, the U.S. supreme court has exempted school districts in Oklahoma City, Ok; DeKalb County, Ga; and Kansas City, Mo. from further participation in forced-integration plans.
  • Federal courts have also released schools in Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas; Columbus and Savannah, Ga.; Denver, Co.; and Wilmington, De.
  • An experiment in Kansas City to lure white suburban students to magnet schools in-town proved to be a $1.5 billion, 10-year failure.

On average, busing costs $300 to $400 per pupil per year and the evidence suggests it has not helped black pupils.

  • In Kansas City, black students in magnet schools have performed no better than black students in neighborhood schools.
  • After San Francisco spent more than $200 million since 1982 to comply with a desegregation court order, black and Hispanic students schools were found to lack "even modest overall improvement."
  • A 1983 report issued by the U.S. Department of Education's National Institute of Education could not find a single study showing black children fared appreciably better following a switch to integrated schools.

But while districts and federal courts are moving away from court-ordered busing, some state courts -- acting on precedent -- may be moving toward busing.

Source: Carl Horowitz, "An End to Court-Ordered Busing?" Investor's Business Daily, August 20, 1996.


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