2007 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Fillingane
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION URGING THE UNITED STATES OFFICE OF EDUCATION AND DIRECTING THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO ASSIST MISSISSIPPI PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO END FEDERAL COURT SUPERVISION OF SCHOOLS AND TO IMPLEMENT PUPIL PLACEMENT PLANS WHICH WILL NOT REQUIRE COURT-ORDERED DESEGREGATION BUSING.
WHEREAS, Section 37-15-35, Mississippi Code of 1972, states as follows:
"37-15-35. No person shall be assigned to or by, or restricted from or to, any group, area, school, institution or other political subdivision of the State of Mississippi on the account of race, color, or national origin. There shall be no governmentally enforced segregation by race, color or national origin and there shall be no governmentally enforced integration by reason of race, color or national origin."; and
WHEREAS, "desegregation busing" is the practice of remedying past racial discrimination in American public schools by busing children to specific schools in an effort to counteract discriminatory school construction and district assignments. Proponents of such plans argue that with the schools integrated, minority students would have equal access to equipment, facilities and resources that the cities' white students had, thus giving all students in the city equal educational opportunities. They also point out that the United States Supreme Court had found that separate but equal schools are inherently unequal; and
WHEREAS, opponents of desegregation busing claim that children were being bused to schools in dangerous neighborhoods, compromising their education and personal safety. Many also criticized the implementation of the policies, claiming that children were often bused from integrated schools less integrated schools. The increased average distance of students from their schools also contributed to the reduced ability of students to participate in extracurricular activities and parents to volunteer for school functions, although parent volunteering percentages were historically low in city schools. Radical busing plans could place enormous stresses on students and their parents, i.e., the transporting of children to very distant neighborhoods, the last-minute transfer of high school seniors who would not be able to graduate with their class, and the sometimes annual redrawing of school district lines to attain racial balance. Such stresses led white middle-class families in some communities in Mississippi to desert the public schools and create a network of private schools; and
WHEREAS, busing is also claimed to have accelerated a trend of middle-class relocation to the suburbs of metropolitan areas, although, again, this claim has little in the way of empirical evidence. Many opponents of forced busing claimed the existence of "white flight" based on the court decisions setting aside racially discriminatory practices in public school systems. Some opponents of busing also claim that busing exacerbated both economic and racial segregation, forcing cities to divide themselves along explicitly racial lines. They content that the "white flight" to the suburbs exacerbated by busing has permanently eroded the tax base of major metropolitan areas, impairing the metropolitan areas' abilities to offer programs aimed at improving the plight of the ethnic minorities whom busing was allegedly supposed to benefit; and
WHEREAS, the national trend during the 1990s and 2000s is the effort to overcome past discriminatory practices without student reassignment where some districts modified their pupil placement plans, under the supervision of the courts, to provide attractive programs in "magnet schools," build new school buildings and reconfigure older buildings to overcome years of discriminatory practices in the construction, furnishing and maintenance of public schools. After years of court supervision of schools, busing programs were tapered during the 1990s as courts across the national released districts from orders under old lawsuits. The population of most cities affected by forced busing continues to decline and many anchor cities are now among the poorest cities in their respective metropolitan area, reflecting the continuation of their status prior to court-ordered integration. Busing continues in the Boston area, the best known historical example of desegregation busing, where a program called Controlled Choice, allowing any student to go to a school outside his or her own neighborhood as long as the move is conducive to achieving racial balance; and
WHEREAS, ironically, today school buses are still used in most of the school districts formerly under court order, but this is much more due to reduced walking zone distances, concern for pupil safety, and a wider choice of programs and locations for many students than requiring a pupil to ride to a school when a closer one was within walking distance. In an era where many families have working parents, the school bus is seen as a safe and protected way to and from school, whether the trip is to the closest school or another; and
WHEREAS, there are numerous examples of Mississippi public school districts which have successfully petitioned the federal court to end court ordered busing and supervision and allow the local school board to implement pupil assignment, construction and neighborhood school policies consistent with federal court standards with input from the local citizens:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCURRING THEREIN, That we do hereby urge the United States Office of Education and direct the Mississippi State Board of Education to take all necessary action to assist Mississippi public school districts to petition the appropriated federal courts to end court supervision of the schools in the district and to end court ordered desegregation orders, thereby enabling the local school board to implement pupil assignment, school construction, neighborhood school, school employment and school transportation policies which are consistent with federal court standards and consistent with input of the local residents.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution be certified by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives to the United States Secretary of Education and the State Superintendent of Education, forwarded to members of Mississippi's congressional delegation and made available to members of the Capitol Press Corps.