Some black parents came up with a solution for avoiding the poor education in the schools their children would have been sent to by opting to send their children into the METCO program. That program made arrangements with schools outside of the city who would be willing to accept some black students from the city. They would be bused out to those schools where they would receive a better education. It was hard on the black kids. who had to suffer through long bus rides to get a chance at a decent education.
There are no programs busing children into the Boston Public schools. If there were, unlike the METCO program where there are waiting lists to get into it, there would be few if any applicants. Why would anyone go into the Boston Public schools when those who are there who have the chance flee?
Boston cannot fix the problem. It cannot force the white families who live there to take their children out of the schools they attend outside the system and put them into the public school system. They are stuck with a population of 14% white students a great number of whom attend either exam schools or the six local neighborhood schools that are majority white. It seems unable to improve the education of black students in the “intensively segregated” schools.
This is not a recent problem under Mayor Walsh. It is one of long-term standing that has been addressed over and over for many decades by persons of good will appointed as the school superintendent. Just within months another educator in that position gave up the job and fled. Isn’t one definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
The poor education in Boston’s schools hurts all of us. To paraphrase Thomas Gray I wonder how many a gem of purest ray serene, the dark unfathomed schools of Boston hold in the children who are not allowed to sparkle; how many a child is born to grow up unseen, and waste its knowledge in the stifling air of the Boston public schools. What mute inglorious Milton here may sit or some future George Washington to carry the nation to greater heights.
If the Boston Public School system cannot do it; if the schools outside the city will only take black children and not send white children into the city; are we to throw up our arms in despair? Are we to refuse, like Judge Garrity, to slowly change the way things are done and seek to put a Band-Aid on a gushing wound. There is no overnight miracle but there are solutions
The responsibility to create equal educational opportunity is also on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It must be proactive in remedying this sad state of affairs. It must create its own school system that would build schools to offer the highest quality academic and trade education. These magnet schools would be built on the outer boarders of the City of Boston close to its neighboring communities. It would draw fifty percent of its students from the students of color in the city and the other fifty percent from the neighboring suburbs. The schools would be of such high quality that students of all races would feel fortunate in attending them. The schools would set high standards of behavior for all students and those that did not measure up to them would be sent back to their original schools.
It would take time to do this. While there are gems among the students there are gems among the teachers who if allowed to teach in the proper environment would also shine. If successful in Boston it could be replicated in other cities of the Commonwealth where segregated schools exist that provide poor education.
We have the time. 45 years after Morgan v. Hennigan we are still wallowing around bumping into walls of our own creation engaged in acts of insanity. Nothing will be forced. Incentives can be offered to those who will help bring about racial balance. The schools will achieve because of the good Americans who believe we are all created equal and have equal rights as citizens; or will fail because of those who fear our fellow citizens.
If this does not achieve what is hoped, there may come a time when compulsion will be used. The Commonwealth at some point will have to accept that unequal educational opportunity exists among its communities. It will have to decide to do something about it. It is surprising that it has been able to escape doing anything for over 45 years.
Remember back in 1965 the Legislature passed the Racial Imbalance Act that required the Boston Public Schools to be racially balanced. This was an ongoing suit which the federal court pushed aside. If the Commonwealth could require a city to racially balance its students, it certainly can require a group of cities and town to do the same. And, if it refuses, then isn’t there federal recourse.
No white families want their children bused into inferior black schools. The way to avoid it is to create schools offering both whites and blacks the best education available. The solution to the problem lies not in the City of Boston but in the Greater Boston community of cities and town under the Commonwealth’s mandate. The Massachusetts Constitution states: “it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially . . . , public schools and grammar schools in the towns; . . . ” Time to act boldly.