education

Should federal courts or agencies be more aggressive in encouraging or pressuring school districts to desegregate their schools?

Yes

Yes

Michael Bennet

U.S. senator, Colorado

“Yes, more aggressive. Only when there is active resistance to integration measures and as part of a much broader solution to segregated, and unequal, schools,” Bennet told The Post. “Busing can help ensure that kids in every community and every neighborhood can benefit from a great education, but it isn’t sufficient by itself. From instituting universal preschool, to raising teacher pay, to building more affordable housing in neighborhoods with great schools, to addressing funding inequities across schools, we need to do much more to prepare every child in the next generation for success.”

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden’s education plan said he “will reinstate Department of Education guidance that supported schools in legally pursuing desegregation strategies and recognized institutions of higher education’s interests in creating diverse student bodies. And, he will provide grants to school districts to create plans and implement strategies to diversify their schools.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Biden
Biden

Cory Booker

U.S. senator, New Jersey

“Our schools remain far too racially segregated today, resulting in wide disparities in children's educational and economic opportunities. We need to do much more, including busing where necessary, to desegregate our schools, address systemic racism, and close the racial wealth and opportunity gaps that exist in our country,” Booker told The Post. “But busing is just one tool. We need to be thinking more broadly about our education, health and housing policies as means to help desegregate our schools. In particular, we know that restrictive local zoning rules exacerbate segregation. Earlier in this campaign I rolled out a comprehensive housing plan that tackles this issue head-on, calling for the federal government to incentivize localities to eliminate restrictive zoning rules in order to qualify for billions of dollars of designated federal loan and grant programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation.”

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Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock

Governor, Montana

“Even today, 150-200 school districts are busing under desegregation orders,” Bullock told The Post. “The U.S. Department of Justice must work with these districts to ensure compliance, recognizing one size won’t fit all. From redlining and gerrymandering, to institutional discrimination in bank lending and access to the ballot box, we must address structural racism head on. Federal Courts and agencies alike should be aggressive in every effort to end policies that hold communities back.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Julian Castro

Former mayor, San Antonio

“Combat racial segregation in schools and reduce educational disparities by working to integrate communities,” Castro's education plan said. “Fulfill the promise of Brown v. Board of Education through a progressive housing policy that includes affirmatively furthering fair housing, implementing zoning reform, and expanding affordable housing in high opportunity areas. These efforts will reduce racial segregation in classrooms.”

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Julian Castro
Castro

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand believes federal courts and agencies should be more aggressive in encouraging or pressuring school districts to desegregate their schools, she told The Post.

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Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Kamala D. Harris

U.S. senator, California

“You also worked ... to oppose busing,” Harris said to former vice president Joe Biden in the first Democratic debate. “And, you know, there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.” Following the debate, Harris gave varying answers on her own busing position, but ultimately said she would support federally mandated busing if a particular school district was resisting integration — but that, “thankfully,” the forces opposing desegregation in the 1960s are not at work today.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. “Governor Hickenlooper is committed to decreasing racial and class segregation in our schools as one essential strategy to address systemic and historic inequities in our education system. The Governor recognizes that reducing inequality in our schools and our communities will take a holistic effort involving all levels of government and public-private partnerships to address barriers to housing, increase economic empowerment and boost education funding. Governor Hickenlooper supports eliminating Section 426 of the General Education Provisions Act, which is the last remaining ban on the use of federal funds for busing,” his campaign told The Post.

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John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Amy Klobuchar

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar believes federal courts and agencies should be more aggressive in encouraging or pressuring school districts to desegregate their schools, she told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Wayne Messam

Mayor, Miramar, Fla.

Messam believes federal courts and agencies should be more aggressive in encouraging or pressuring school districts to desegregate their schools, he told The Post.

Candidate positions highlighted
Wayne Messam
Messam

Beto O'Rourke

Former U.S. representative, Texas

“As president, Beto would support efforts to promote diversity in our schools,” an O'Rourke spokesperson told The Post. “He supports the Strength in Diversity Act and repealing the prohibition on the use of federal funds for transportation connected to efforts designed to promote diversity in our schools. Beto believes the federal government plays a crucial role in enforcing constitutionally protected civil rights.”

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Tim Ryan

U.S. representative, Ohio

“No matter where someone grew up, working families in every zip code deserve the same opportunities for their children. But that is not the case today,” Ryan told The Post. “Right now students in schools that primarily serve students of color and students from low-income families receive $23 billion less than students lucky enough to be born in the right zip code. This is a broken system. We must close this funding gap so that hard work and determination — not neighborhood — are the primary determinant of student success. So, yes, I do support efforts to desegregate our schools, busing included.”

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders

U.S. senator, Vermont

“65 years after Brown v. Board of Education, many U.S. schools remain unacceptably segregated. Some 300 school districts are currently under desegregation orders and the Supreme Court has curtailed the government’s power to address them. Under Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights has outrageously “scaled back” civil rights investigations and dismissed hundreds of them in short order,” a campaign spokesman told The Post. “When [Sanders] is in the White House, he will execute and enforce desegregation orders and appoint federal judges who will enforce the 1964 Civil Rights Act in school systems. He will build on the Strength in Diversity Act to increase, not cut, federal funding for community-driven strategies to desegregate schools. And he will triple Title I funding to ensure at-risk schools get the funding they need and end funding penalties for schools that attempt to desegregate.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

“Yes. I believe integrated schools are best for all students, so whenever districts contain racially segregated schools, I believe active measures to integrate are worthwhile — including busing,” Sestak told The Post. “When the local response is inadequate, especially if in violation of a court decision, federal courts and agencies should step in.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

“We also have to close the achievement gap in K-12 education and make sure we are creating opportunity for students of color, students with disabilities, students whose first language isn’t English, and other students who have been historically underserved,” Warren told The Post. “I support legislation to dedicate tens of millions of federal dollars to provide competitive grants to local educational agencies to improve diversity or eliminate socioeconomic or racial isolation in public schools. That would include federal dollars for agencies that wished to use busing to achieve these goals. In addition, if localities are not taking action to desegregate schools, I believe the federal government has a constitutional obligation to step in to deliver on the promise of Brown v. Board, including, if necessary, busing.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson

Author

“Yes. We need to provide quality education in all schools, so no matter which school a child attends they will get a good education,” Williamson told The Post. “Federal courts or agencies should encourage desegregation in schools. For communities that want help diversifying, busing can be an important way to meet that goal.”

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Unclear/no response

Unclear/no response

Pete Buttigieg

Mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg did not provide an answer to this question.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. De Blasio did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

John Delaney

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney did not provide an answer to this question.

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John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard did not provide an answer to this question.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. Inslee did not provide an answer to this question.

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Jay Inslee
Inslee

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. Moulton did not provide an answer to this question.

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Seth Moulton
Moulton

Tom Steyer

Billionaire activist

Steyer did not provide an answer to this question.

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Andrew Yang

Tech entrepreneur

Yang did not provide an answer to this question.

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

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Background The clash over 1970s-era school busing during the first Democratic debate focused attention on former vice president Joe Biden’s position at the time. But many schools are still segregated by race, as well as by income, and the situation has grown worse in some communities in the years since federal courts lifted most desegregation orders. Today, some school districts are working to desegregate their schools. The Obama administration put forth some modest efforts to encourage this, but they have been rolled back under President Trump.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. education policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports. See something we missed? Let us know.

We expect candidates to develop more detailed policy positions throughout the campaign, and this page will update as we learn more about their plans. We also will note if candidates change their positions on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president or an exploratory committee. The Post will contact additional candidates as they enter the race and include them here.

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