Experts who study the country's school system say Harris renewed attention on an issue still roiling America's public schools in a way that hasn't been seen in decades. And the 2020 presidential candidates are divided about how they feel about the continuing practice of trying to integrate the education system by moving diverse kids from one part of town to another to get an education.
Harris's confrontation of Biden during the second Democratic debate seems to have sparked a surge in her poll numbers: According to a CNN poll released last night, Biden fell 10 points among primary voters since the last survey was taken in May, while Harris gained enough post-debate traction to rank second in the field, followed by Elizabeth Warren. Significantly, Biden's support is falling with black voters: in April and May, per CNN, his support with African Americans was 49 percent and has now fallen to 36 percent; while Harris has seen a rise with the demographic from 6 to 24 percent.
WHAT IS IT?: Busing refers to the use of school buses to desegregate schools either voluntarily or through a court-ordered mandate. During the debate, Harris slammed Biden for opposing government-mandated busing, which she described using to get to school as a little girl in California.
STILL HAPPENING: Busing isn't a relic of the 1970s. As both a voluntary or court-ordered approach, it's still used by cities around the country.
- Berkeley: Harris’s hometown in California, where she was part of the second class of kids to integrate Thousand Oaks Elementary, still uses buses though it has since modified its plan “that is based on socioeconomic and demographic data instead of a student's race. The original desegregation policy remains a source of civic pride,” the Los Angeles Times’ Michael Finnegan, Seema Mehta and Melanie Mason report.
- Other voluntary efforts: Erica Frankenberg, an education and demography professor at Penn State University, identified 59 school districts across the country that have taken concrete steps toward voluntary desegregation, many of which include some form of busing.
- However: " . . . even voluntary school integration has been dealt a setback, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1, which limited the ways in which districts can choose to promote diversity and reduce racial isolation,” per Frankenberg.
- Alabama: Frankenberg pointed to a case just last year in Birmingham, Ala., where a 1971 segregation order remains in place. A federal appellate court found that the city of Gardendale, a Birmingham suburb, could not secede from the county and start its own school district because “the plan’s express purpose was to exclude black children,” NBC News’s Alex Johnson reported.
WHY IT MATTERS: Sixty-five years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, the initial progress of integrating America’s public schools is backsliding, according to Frankenberg. A growing number of school districts are resegregating, despite the sea change in demographics across the country.
“I think it's unfortunate that we can't use the term busing,” Frankenberg told us. “In fact, when I write books I ask the book publishers not to put a picture of a bus on the front cover for example, because I think it’s an unfortunate and sort of reductionist way to think of school desegregation, which is incredibly more complex.”
- The situation is getting worse: “In the 1990s, a series of Supreme Court decisions led to the end of hundreds of desegregation orders and plans across the nation,” the authors of a UCLA's Civil Rights Project wrote in a report. “This report shows that the growth of racial and economic segregation that began then has now continued unchecked for nearly three decades, placing the promise of Brown at grave risk.”
- Who?: “White students, on average, attend a school in which 69 percent of the students are white, while Latino students attend a school in which 55 percent of the students are Latino,” the report concludes, pointing out that white students have not made up the majority of the country’s school population for awhile.
- Black students do not fare any better: “Segregation for black students is rising in all parts of the U.S. Black students, who account for 15 percent of enrollment, as they did in 1970, are in schools that average 47 percent black students,” the authors write.
- Nationwide: The report found that most segregated schools in 2016 were in traditionally blue states like New York, California, Illinois and Maryland. In fact, of the top 10 states with segregated schools, six of them are in the northern United States.
- Double segregation: The report also found that racial segregation was closely tied to socioeconomic status, meaning that “Black and Latino students, on average attend schools with a far higher share of poverty, measured by eligibility free/reduced price lunch.”
WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND: Biden has been at the center of scrutiny, but he’s not the only candidate in the field to comment on the issue.
- Harris: “I support the busing,” Harris said on Sunday to reporters. “The schools of America are as segregated or more segregated today than when I was in elementary school. And we need to put every effort, including busing, into play to desegregate the schools.”
- Biden: “Believes that often better policies address the root causes segregation like rezoning school districts, putting public housing in white neighborhoods and combating redlining,” Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo wrote in a series of messages on Twitter, in a back-and-forth with Harris spokesman Ian Sams. Ducklo’s comments came after Biden expanded on his views during a post-debate interview.
- Bernie Sanders: “We need to make sure that kids go to community schools, which are integrated and that means we have to focus on fair housing legislation and enforcement,” Sanders said on ABC News's This Week. “No, we've — busing is certainly an option that is necessary in certain cases, but it is not the optimal. Does anybody think it's a good idea to put a kid on a bus, travel an hour to another school and to another neighborhood that he or she doesn't know? That's not the optimal. What is the optimal is to have great community schools which are integrated, that's what I think most people want to see. That's what I want to see.”
- Elizabeth Warren: “I’m already on record on busing and using busing as a way to help communities that are diversifying,” she told reporters on Friday, according to Politico.
- Julián Castro: Did not respond to a request for comment, but on his webs ite says he would “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.”
- Kirsten Gillibrand: The New York senator told reporters after the debate: “I think every child should be able to go to a good public school. And as president I will assure that. If it needs busing, it needs busing.”
- Donald Trump: “Well, that’s something that they’ve done for a long period of time. You know, there aren’t that many ways you’re going to get people to schools. So this is something that’s been done. In some cases, it’s been done with a hammer instead of a velvet glove. But it is certainly a primary method of getting people to schools.” Trump said during a news conference in Osaka, Japan last week after NBC News's Kristen Welker asked Trump if he thought busing was a “viable way of integrating schools.”
- Coming: “And as far as that, I will tell you in about four weeks, because we’re coming out with a certain policy that’s going to be very interesting and very surprising, I think, to a lot of people,”
HOW BUSING BECAME BUSING: As you can tell by now, segregation in public schools did not end with Brown in 1954. A year later, the court ordered states to end school segregation “with all deliberate speed.” But even then, efforts to slow-walk and thwart integration continued.
- The real court action on busing didn't occur until over a decade later in 1968, Will Stancil, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota Law School pointed out in an Atlantic article last year. Momentum began to turn in 1974, two years after Biden was elected.
- The other opposition: Before the 1968 decision, white parents in New York were beginning the roots of the organized opposition to busing that in the 1970s would explode in places like Boston, where court-ordered integration through busing was met with intense opposition.
- Enter Biden: Beginning early on in his Senate career, Biden led the fight against busing. Our colleague Matt Viser looked into this history at length in March.
- It wasn't just Biden: “On the politically charged topic of desegregation busing, Sanders expressed concerns about the program's unintended consequences,” CNN’s Nathan McDermott, Andrew Kaczynski and Gregory Krieg reported in May in a story that unearthed Sanders comments on busing from 1974. “The Middlebury College campus newspaper reported in 1974 that Sanders believed busing — ‘(doing) bad in the guise of good things,’ as he put it — risked creating racial hostility where none previously existed.”
- Lack of public support: Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics illustrated on Twitter how this opposition affected public opinion:
- “When people today talk about busing and say it was controversial, all they're saying is that efforts to uproot entrenched racism and segregation in the country didn't please everyone,” Matthew Delmont, professor of history at Dartmouth College and author of "Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation," told Power Up.
- “School buses have been used within the 20th century of the United States to move students to schools, it's what made the modern American school system possible moving from one-room school houses to multiple grade elementary and then comprehensive high schools,” Delmont said. “In fact, school buses were often used to maintain segregation . . . so during that whole time period the 1920s through the 1950s and 60s the use of school buses wasn't controversial at all to white parents, it was only when busing became linked to school desegregation that it became an issue.”
At the White House
FOURTH OF TRUMP-LY: “President Trump has asked the Pentagon to marshal a broadening array of military hardware, including tanks and fighter jets, to showcase his planned Fourth of July address to the nation — dramatically escalating the gathering’s cost and sparking concerns about the potentially damaging impact on the Mall and other infrastructure,” my colleagues Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Dan Lamothe report.
- “Trump, who had already ordered up a flyover by military aircraft including Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels, has pressed to expand his “Salute to America” event further with an F-35 stealth fighter and the involvement of Marine Helicopter Squadron One, which flies the presidential helicopter, according to government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.”
- “He also pushed to bring military tanks to the site of his planned speech at the Lincoln Memorial, prompting National Park Service officials to warn that such a deployment could damage the site, these individuals said.”
- $$$: “The Defense Department has not released any estimates of how much the celebration could cost. But the use of numerous aircraft could drive it well into the millions of dollars when counting fuel and maintenance.”
- Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted: “Risking damage to local infrastructure and dumping huge piles of taxpayer money onto the never-ending bonfire of Donald Trump’s vanity. My constituents and the other people who live here overwhelmingly do NOT want this.”
TANKS SPOTTED: The Associated Press’s photog Pat Semansky found at least two of the Army tanks ahead of the celebration:
- “ . . . the two M1A1 Abrams tanks are with four other military vehicles on a freight train in a rail yard at the southeastern edge of Washington. The vehicles are being guarded by military police but are visible to passersby on nearby paths. A military official earlier told the AP that the tanks were transported north from Fort Stewart in Georgia.”
- (See above for the photo capture.)
HIJACKED: HuffPost’s S.V. Date reports on the administration's doling out of tickets to the nonpolitical celebration on the National Mall to political appointees and Republican donors.
- “The Republican National Committee has been offering major donors tickets to Trump’s speech, as have political appointees at the White House and executive branch agencies.”
- “This partisan appropriation of a public event is consistent with the record of an administration that has no regard for lines between personal or partisan interests and its public obligations,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, told Date.
DRINKING WATER FROM THE TOILET: U.S. lawmakers visited border detention facilities in El Paso and Clint, Texas yesterday, describing a "broken" and "horrifying" "system of immigration detention at the nation's southern border where women in one cell were allegedly told to drink water from a toilet," reports El Paso Times's Lauren Villagran.
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said the group of lawmakers "met 15 to 20 mothers who had been detained at the Border Patrol Station in Northeast El Paso 'for over 50 days,' he said. Some had been separated from their children, and the cell where they were held didn’t have running water to drink, he said,'" per Villagran.
- "Lawmakers said one of the women at the Northeast station alleged that border agents told her to drink water from the toilet."
- "A Department of Homeland Security official, who was not authorized to discuss the visit and spoke on the condition of anonymity, insisted that no Border Patrol agent would make a migrant in their custody drink from a toilet and said there was water available," per my colleagues Bob Moore, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis. However, it's impossible to verify these claims since reporters are not allowed into the facilities.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the "haunting visit":
- "After I forced myself into a cell w/ women&began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as 'psychological warfare' - waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a 'lack of funding?'," she tweeted after visiting one of two Border Patrol processing centers.
PROPUBLICA SCOOP: The visit coincided with the publishing of a report by ProPublica's A.C. Thompson about a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents who "joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings."
- "ProPublica received images of several recent discussions in the 10-15 Facebook group and was able to link the participants in those online conversations to apparently legitimate Facebook profiles belonging to Border Patrol agents, including a supervisor based in El Paso, Texas, and an agent in Eagle Pass, Texas. ProPublica has so far been unable to reach the group members who made the postings."
- “It’s very tough to back them up when their active and retired members are part of this Facebook page,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) told The Post in an interview before they lawmakers toured the facilities in El Paso. “Even if it’s a very small percentage, it’s unfortunate they harbor some very dark imagery and very dark thoughts about migrants and members of Congress.”
- "Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost, who responded to the ProPublica report, described the online group as 'completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out' and she vowed to hold accountable any employee found to have violated the agency’s rules of conduct," per Bob, John and Mike.
On The Hill
JUST IN 🚨: Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has sent a letter (see below) to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding an investigation after Libyan government fighters discovered American missiles at a rebel base in Tripoli. First reported by the New York Times's Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt, and John Ismay, the "markings on the missiles’ shipping containers indicate that they were originally sold to the United Arab Emirates, an important American partner, in 2008."
- If the Emirates transferred the weapons to Gen. Khalifa Hifter, "whose forces are waging a military campaign to take over Libya and overthrow a government the United States supports... it would likely violate the sales agreement with the United States as well as a United Nations arms embargo."
Menendez, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Pomepo that the discovery of American missiles in the rebel compound is "particularly alarming given that you recently tried to bypass Congressional authorization for these specific weapons to the UAE in May through a dubious ‘emergency’ action to counter a supposed Iranian threat."
- Menendez added that he would like the State Department's inspector general to investigate Pompeo and his knowledge of the transaction.
- "The Senate just last week on a bipartisan basis passed 22 of my resolutions to reject the arms sales subject to your mistaken emergency declaration, including those to the UAE," Menendez writes. "The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also passed my “Saudi Arabia False Emergencies” (SAFE) Act to restrict your and your successors’ ability to abuse the emergency authorities in the Arms Export Control Act in the future."
In the Media
RUNNING WHILE FEMALE: "The six women running for the Democratic nomination come from different backgrounds. They range in age from 70 (Warren) to 38 (Representative Tulsi Gabbard). They are lawyers and senators, professors and soldiers and even an author and spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey (Marianne Williamson). They disagree on campaign tactics and policies. I spoke to Senator Amy Klobuchar just after she came out against Warren’s plan to cancel most student debt and make tuition at public colleges free. (And don’t even get the other women started on Gabbard’s foreign-policy positions.) But they also form an unlikely sisterhood in the inspiring, baffling, often infuriating contest to defeat President Trump," Amy Chozick reports for Vogue.
- "Rather than being propelled, these women have seemed stuck in a sort of political purgatory, firmly, frustratingly sandwiched between Hillary’s loss and the country’s (eventual?) realization that a woman can be president. Studies conducted early this year by Northeastern University and FiveThirtyEight, respectively, found that the female candidates have received more negative coverage in the news media than their male rivals, and have had a harder time breaking through in cable TV and viral moments (unless you count Trump evoking the massacre at Wounded Knee to mock Warren). Depending on the day, these women have been eclipsed by a man who can speak Norwegian (Pete Buttigieg) or who played in a punk band (Beto O’Rourke) or who picked up $700,000 on a Wednesday night in Hollywood (Joe Biden). As I was reporting this story, David Axelrod, the former Obama adviser, praised Buttigieg’s taco-eating ability. (“He can eat tacos without apparently dropping any on his white shirt,” Axelrod tweeted). I tried to imagine a woman candidate (or any woman) being praised for eating, well, anything."
- Read the full profile here.