| || Boston Expected to End School Busing By Robin Estrin |
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 1999; 6:45 p.m. EDT BOSTON –– A generation after Boston erupted in violence over court-ordered busing to desegregate public schools, the school board was expected to end busing in a city where the vast majority of pupils are now minorities.
"Underlying all of this is a dose of good old common sense that says 'Let's move on. It's not the '70s. It's not the '80s. It's the end of the '90s,'" said Superintendent Thomas Payzant, flanked at a news conference by three dozen parents, politicians and community leaders — black and white.
Much has changed since the 1974 federal court order that forced the city to bus white students into black neighborhoods and vice versa.
The order sparked huge protests, staining the city's reputation as white parents hurled rocks and epithets at buses that brought black children into their neighborhoods, then refused to let their own attend black schools.
Today, with whites having pulled out of the city in past years and a burgeoning immigrant population having moved in, the school system has become 85 percent minority.
Last month, a group of white parents filed a lawsuit alleging that the busing policy discriminates against their children by denying them access to their chosen schools.
Under a proposal put forth by Payzant, Boston parents would still get to choose where they want to send their children to school. Race, however, will not be a consideration.
The school department would evaluate other criteria when deciding which students attend which schools: the proximity of the child's home to the school; whether he or she has any siblings there; and the results of a yearly school choice lottery.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said racial issues have distracted the city from what should be its main goal: improving teaching and student learning.
The policy would take effect in the fall of 2000.
Busing in the transportation sense would still exist. There aren't enough neighborhood schools to allow every one of the city's 63,000 students to walk, and some parents would opt to send their children to schools across town.
Menino has promised to build six new neighborhood schools in the most impoverished areas of the city that need them most.
Officials said the proposed change would not significantly change the racial breakdown of the schools because the city's population is now about 85 percent minority — 49 percent black, 26 percent Hispanic and 9 percent Asian.
Only a few of the city's 129 schools would end up with a mostly white student body, Payzant said.
A quarter-century ago, about 48 percent of the city's school children were minority. Back then, schools were either entirely white or black.
State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who represents some of the city's predominantly black areas, said Boston still has much work to do in ensuring that all its schools are of equal caliber.
Still, she said, the mere fact that blacks and whites were together endorsing the new proposal shows how much the city has changed over 25 years.