The Herald Bulletin

August 27, 2013

Viewpoint: Communities once held control of schools

By James W. Clark
Anderson resident

---- — Once upon a time, American children were educated in neighborhood schools that had stood the test of time and created the genius that made America the envy of the world. Students walked or rode their bikes to school. The community and the school was the center of their universe. Community was in control of schools and parents were in control of their children, as they received a good education in a protected and loving environment.

In the 1960s, liberal conformists convinced the courts and weak-minded politicians with no vision that forced integration would salvage schools in the inner cities, attended mostly by disadvantaged minorities.

Laws were passed establishing quotas to ensure racial balance and diversity in all school systems in America. The worst political blunder in American history. These laws resulted in the destruction of the school system by removing parents and communities from the education process, replacing it with an ineffective system controlled by bureaucrats and the federal courts. By the time those responsible realized their gross error in judgment, the genie was out of the bottle and had taken on a life of its own; and they made every effort to distance themselves from the stigma of these tragic laws and a failing educational system. The real tragedy is that most educators and politicians know this to be true — and do not have the courage to initiate change.

Busing to integrate schools has resulted in a massive buildup of a fleet of buses in America that cost billions of dollars to maintain and operate. Over 25 years, the cost ran into trillions of taxpayer dollars that will never pay dividends. What has the taxpayer received for 25 years of forced busing and expenditures in the trillions of dollars? I would ask the courts, bureaucrats and pundits: Are schools totally diverse and integrated? Do we have adequate and well-maintained schools with improved test scores and graduates? Has the quality of education improved in Indiana and across the country? Are you aware of the coming changes and that busing may become a relic of the past? How much longer will the country (taxpayers) tolerate the high cost of maintaining a failed system?

Most people realize they have paid a very high price and received little in return. I would like for someone from the school board or the budget office to tell the citizens of Indiana just how much it costs to operate and maintain 14,000 buses for one year. This may give them a reason why they are burdened with ever higher taxes and the schools are unable to properly maintain property or increase teachers' pay scale. Most people believe busing should have been phased out long ago, and if schools are not integrated after 25 years, they may never be. Many are working to alter their school's focus from diversity to excellence in education to all. To accomplish this they want to direct taxpayer dollars to build up a new neighborhood school concept that will encourage diversity and an excellent education at a reasonable price.

The winds of change, in several cases, are returning schools to local control as a constitutional priority. Communities are no longer willing to spend money on a system that very few want and can no longer afford.