Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Chicago busing battle rolls on

By Jonathan HarschStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / April 20, 1981



Chicago

Chicago has moved closer to "the Boston solution" of having a federal court impose a school desgregation plan because the city itself cannot agree. The latest setback came last week when US District Judge Milton I. Shadur granted Chicago's racially split school board another two weeks to submit desegregation guidelines.

Skip to next paragraph

Many white opponents of busing, including Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, welcomed the delay. They feel that if the city delays long enough, federal pressure for desegregation may be relaxed. City Alderman Roman C. Pucinski this weekend said he hopes that eventually the US Supreme Court will "reassess" and perhaps reverse the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision that outlawed school segregation.

Chicago's desegregation guidelines, due to be submitted to Judge Shadur April 29, are part of a consent decree worked out last September between the city and Justice Department officials. Under that legally binding agreement, Chicago's school board promised to create "the greatest practicable number of stably desegregated schools, considering all the circumstances in Chicago."

Attorneys for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who have filed a new court suit demanding desegregation action here, say the city remains characterized by "entrenched racially segregated schooling." The NAACP and other black organizations now expect that a court takeover of the schools will be necessary for desegregation to work.

White organizations and white politicians also are preparing to go to court over the desegregation issue, although for different reasons. Not only do they expect delay to work in their favor as courts catch up with what the whites see as a new national mood, but many white politicians see the antibusing platform as a sure way to win votes.

Black resignation to a court battle coupled with white support for court action to delay implementing desegregation plans leaves Judge Shadur virtually alone in trying to prevent the desegregation battle from being thrown into court.

Last week Judge Shadur gave the school board until April 29 to submit new proposals. But few here expect the board to agree on an acceptable desegregation plan, with or without further extension.

The board itself split 6 to 5 along racial lines in an April 15 vote rejecting its own consultants' latest desegregation plan. That plan did not go far enough to satisfy all blacks and might not have been approved by Judge Shadur. Yet the plan's proposa! for busing 25,000 of the city's 455,000 students and limiting white enrollment in any school to 65 percent was too much for white school board members who voted down the proposal.

Mayor Byrne has been one of the most outspoken critics of even limited busing , leading to a Chicago Sun-Times editorial dubbing her the "new cheerleader of white desegregation foes." But the Democratic mayor has allies. Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson (R) and US Sen. Charles H. Percy (R) of Illinois have joined her in saying there is no money available to pay for busing Chicago students.

Busing's white critics were encouraged by the California Supreme Court ruling in March which led to a Los Angeles decision to end school busing. Further encouragement came from Secretary of Education Terrel Bell's March statement that "there have just got to be other approaches than busing to attaining a better racial balance. Mayor Byrne suggested last week that cable television "giving classes to children all over Chicago . . . would be an integrated program."

Confusion mounted this weekend over the role the federal courts will play in the nation's busing battles. First, Federal District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima stepped into the Los Angeles case with a temporary restraining order to prevent ending school busing there. Then on April 18 the three-judge panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2 to 1 throw out Judge Tashima's restraining order. This action once again ended mandatory b using in Los Angeles -- at least temporarily.