A group of black parents in Prince George's County, upset at a desegregation proposal that would increase busing distances and close as many as 40 schools, is organizing a campaign to lobby against adoption of the plan and is calling upon the county chapter of the NAACP to withdraw its 13-year-old lawsuit against the schools.
Creation of the Black Coalition Against Unnecessary Busing reflects a wider controversy over how to promote desegregation in the county's 175 schools.
The coalition is being organized by several PTA presidents and includes school board member Barbara Fletcher Martin, who represents a predominantly black district.
Organizers said that they plan to announce formation of the group at a news conference and rally on Wednesday.
"We don't need any plan that's going to bus kids," said James Garrett, PTA president at Oxon Hill Middle School and a principal organizer of the group. "What we need is a plan to address educational problems . . . . We don't believe you can actually accomplish the object of education through busing."
The coalition is recommending that the county allow some schools to continue serving local neighborhoods, even if this means a school is used by predominantly one race and, instead of increasing busing, to concentrate resources on schools where test scores have been low.
Student-teacher ratios should be lowered at those schools, and new programs of instruction should be introduced, Garrett said.
The group is not opposed to all busing, he said, but was formed in response to the so-called Green Report, the work of a court-appointed panel headed by Robert L. Green, president of the University of the District of Columbia. The panel recommended, in addition to closing schools, busing students from the predominantly black inner-Beltway area to the predominantly white outer-Beltway area, and vice versa.
The report was submitted last month to U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman, who ultimately must approve a desegregation plan for the county. Meanwhile, Superintendent John A. Murphy has proposed an alternative system of magnet schools that would offer specialized programs to draw students away from neighborhood schools, thus promoting desegregation.
Garrett said that the group will submit letters and a position paper to Kaufman and wage a campaign to draw attention to its concerns. Endorsing the effort is a six-year-old community group, South Prince George's Coalition on Black Affairs, which also opposes the Green Report's recommendations, according to its president, Robert Jones.
The perception has been that because most of the complaints about the busing recommendations have come from the white parents, "the black community is silent, that means we must consent" to the recommendations, said Garrett. "I tell you, there is not consent."
Garrett said that the group wants the county NAACP to pull out of the lawsuit, which he believes would then pave the way for county officials to take control of the desegregation issue and take it out of the court.
Thomas Newman, a spokesman for the county NAACP, said that dropping the lawsuit is "moot" because the judge has issued a desegregation order.
"People are interpreting the Green Report as a position of the NAACP, and it's not," he said. "It's not a panacea . . . . It is a report to the court; it is not a plan."
Murphy said that he is encouraged by the formation of the group and its call for improved educational programs.
That's the intent of our planning as well," he said, "not only to have magnet schools but, in those schools where we cannot have racial balance, to bring additional resources and staff and make sure those youngsters have programs that give them every opportunity to succeed.