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Education

Kamala Harris Calls for Federally Mandated Busing

Senator Kamala Harris (D, Calif.) at the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) 2019 legislative conference in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

On Sunday, Kamala Harris expressed support for new, federally mandated busing policies. “I support busing. Listen, the schools of America are as segregated, if not more segregated, today than when I was in elementary school,” Harris said. “Where states fail to do their duty to ensure equality of all people and in particular where states create or pass legislation that created inequality, there’s no question that the federal government has a role and a responsibility to step up.”

Harris still hasn’t been specific about what exactly the federal government should do. “After her exchange with Mr. Biden on Thursday night, a Harris spokesman said that she supported busing as a method for school integration, but the campaign declined to provide additional information,” the New York Times reported.

In the first national poll of the Democratic primary conducted since Harris attacked Biden over busing, Harris gained 6 points (jumping from 6 percent to 12 percent) and Biden dropped 5 points (from 38 percent to 33 percent). But that 6-point bump in the primary required Harris to embrace a policy opposed by a supermajority of American voters.

As NPR notes, the polling numbers on forced busing are bleak: 

A 1973 Gallup Poll found that while a majority of Americans favored school integration, just 5% believed busing was the best way to do it. That went across racial lines — just 4% of whites and 9% of African Americans thought busing was the best way to do it. 

Americans thought other policies should be focused more on and would do a better job of achieving school integration, like changing school district boundaries to bring together students from different social, racial and economic groups (27%) or that there should be more affordable housing in middle-class neighborhoods (22%).

Even a generation later, 82% of Americans said they favored letting students go to their neighborhood school over busing. A 1999 Gallup Poll found that almost 9 in 10 whites said so, and blacks were split — 48% to 44%, with a plurality preference for keeping students in neighborhood schools.

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