SCHOOLED ON CHARLOTTE: Fifty-three (or 85) outlying districts!

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2019

The vast sweep of a good idea:
On the merits, was mandated busing a good idea in 1975?

It's astounding to think that our current campaign has turned upon this question. "Consider the shortcomings of the species," disconsolate experts have told us. They report to us from the years which follow the conflagration they ruefully refer to only as Mister Trump's War.

It's amazing to think that this is the way we're conducting our current campaign. That said, Nikole Hannah-Jones thinks mandated busing was a good idea on the merits, and she may well be right.

In her lengthy essay in Sunday's New York Times, Hannah-Jones blew past the political problems which brought the era of busing to an end. In our view, she also blew past some basic facts—some basic facts about the era which followed the era of mandated busing.

For that reason, her lengthy report gives us a way to think about the extent to which you can trust and believe the things you read in the New York Times. We'll start supplying some missing facts in tomorrow's report.

For today, why does Hannah-Jones say that mandated busing was a good idea at that time on the merits? In large part, she bases her view on a highly familiar claim about certain things "we now know:"
HANNAH-JONES (7/14/19): We now know that school desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children—cutting it in half for some black age groups without harming white children. No other reform has reduced the gap on this scale. Rather, the opposite is true: The test-score gap between black and white students reached its narrowest point ever at the peak of desegregation and has widened as schools have resegregated.
We've highlighted the key claims in that passage. They go exactly like this:

According to Hannah-Jones, achievement gaps between white and black kids narrowed significantly in the era of desegregation. She also says that achievement gaps have widened in the era of "resegregation."

In support of her claims, she links to this 57-page report about the Naep's Long Term Trend Assessment program, a report which appeared in 2012. For ourselves, we'd rate one of Hannah-Jones' claims as true, one as false or highly misleading.

Later, Hannah-Jones links to the same 2012 Naep report as she discusses the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), which engaged in large-scale busing in the 1970s and 1980s. For the record, if you don't agree with Hannah-Jones, you may be involved in a lie:
HANNAH-JONES: [T]o say busing—or really, mandated desegregation—failed is a lie.

It transformed the South from apartheid to the place where black children are now the most likely to sit in classrooms with white children. It led to increased resources being spent on black and low-income children. There’s a story black people ruefully tell of the day they knew integration was coming to a black high school in Charlotte, N.C.: A crew of workers arrived to fix up the facilities because now white children would be attending. This is how two-way busing worked and why integration was necessary—white people would never allow their children to attend the types of inferior schools to which they relegated black children.

For years, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, where the community decided to make busing work, were some of the most integrated in the country, and both black and white students saw achievement gains. The district was forced to return to neighborhood schools after a white family brought down the desegregation order, and Charlotte is now the most segregated district in North Carolina. We should question why in the narrative of busing we remember Boston but not Charlotte.
According to Hannah-Jones, "both black and white students saw achievement gains" in CMS during the era of busing. As noted, she links to that 2012 Naep report—and that lengthy report doesn't include a single word about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Such "phantom links" are hardly unknown in the New York Times.

Hannah-Jones goes on to say that CMS is now "the most segregated district in North Carolina," but she fails to report achievement patterns during this post-busing era. So it goes as the New York Times continues its war on the lies!

Tomorrow, we'll start to show you what has happened in CMS in this post-busing era. We can do so because CMS has been taking part on the Naep's Trial Urban District Assessment program since 2003, a fact Hannah-Jones skipped past.

The data we show you will complicate the simple story Hannah-Jones tells. That said, our modern journalism is largely built upon simplified structures of this type. It's built upon simple-minded, novelized stories—fiction all the way down.

Starting tomorrow, we'll look at actual data! For today, let's take a moment to contemplate the sweep of that era's mandated busing programs.

Hannah-Jones thinks this era's mandated busing was a good idea on the merits, and she may well be right. That said, good God, but those programs were sweeping! Consider this part of Hannah-Jones' impassioned report:
HANNAH-JONES: Media and politicians blamed busing for the white flight from many cities, even though cities with large black populations suffered extensive white flight whether they instituted busing or not. They said busing stoked racial tensions, as if race relations had been just fine when black people stayed in their place.

And then in 1974 the Supreme Court, stacked with four Nixon appointees, dealt a lethal blow to Northern desegregation. In Milliken v. Bradley, it struck down a lower court’s order for a metropolitan desegregation plan that attempted to deal with white flight by forcing the all-white suburban school districts ringing Detroit to integrate with the nearly all-black city system. By ruling against a desegregation plan that jumped school district borders, the court sent a clear message to white Northerners that the easiest way to avoid integration was to move to a white town with white schools.
The Milliken ruling did play a key role in limiting the era of mandated busing. It also helps us see why the politics of mandated busing in that era were so fraught.

As Hannah-Jones notes, a lower court had ordered Detroit to forge a busing plan with some "all-white suburban school districts."

(Hannah-Jones says Detroit's system was "nearly all-black" at the time. According to at least one scholar, the school system was actually about two-thirds black at this point.)

The order from that lower court may have been a good idea on the merits. Detroit-area kids might have gained, in many ways, had the order gone into effect.

But good lord, that lower court order was sweeping! Here's the description offered by the legal site to which Hannah-Jones links:
OYEZ LEGAL SITE: A suit charging that the Detroit, Michigan public school system was racially segregated as a result of official policies was filed against Governor Milliken. After reviewing the case and concluding the system was segregated, a district court ordered the adoption of a desegregation plan that encompassed eighty-five outlying school districts. The lower court found that Detroit-only plans were inadequate. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the metropolitan plan. This case was decided together with Allen Park Public Schools v. Bradley and Grosse Pointe Public School System v. Bradley.
Good lord! One pointy-headed federal judge had taken control of eighty-five (85!) outlying school systems, along with that of Detroit itself!

It may well be that this judge's idea was a good idea on the merits, but this is the very definition of "judicial overreach." Within the American political system, there is no way that any such regime can last, whatever the merits of its ideas, orders and commandments may be.

As it turned out, the Supreme Court didn't let that order stand. The site to which Hannah-Jones links explains it like this:
OYEZ LEGAL SITE: In a 5-to-4 decision, the Court held that "[w]ith no showing of significant violation by the 53 outlying school districts and no evidence of any interdistrict violation or effect," the district court's remedy was "wholly impermissible" and not justified by Brown v. Board of Education. The Court noted that desegregation, "in the sense of dismantling a dual school system," did not require "any particular racial balance in each 'school, grade or classroom.'" The Court also emphasized the importance of local control over the operation of schools.
How did we get from eighty-five outlying districts to just fifty-three? We don't have the slightest idea, and Hannah-Jones' link doesn't explain.

Would children have gained if the lower court's order had gone into effect? It's possible that children would have gained a great deal! It's also possible that rioting and other acts of mayhem would have ensued region-wide.

Hannah-Jones thinks orders like that were a good idea on the merits. A younger Joe Biden seemed to see that the politics wasn't going to work.

In a recent post,
Kevin Drum offered a capsule history of the way the politics of the era played out. We aren't saying his history is perfectly accurate, but Hannah-Jones blows past such points of concern altogether:
DRUM (7/1/19): Let me just make a few points. First, forced busing during the ’70s prompted one of the biggest political backlashes of the past half century. By the end of it, Ronald Reagan was president and Reaganomics dominated America for the next 40 years. This was bad for everyone who wasn’t already rich, and it was especially bad for ethnic minorities.
According to Drum, the politics of this good idea worked out very poorly. Presumably, this is a lie.

Hannah-Jones thinks this era's mandated busing was a good idea on the merits. She may be perfectly right.

That said, we think that false and misleading statements by journalists are a bad idea on the merits. So too with silly, simplified, pleasing fairy tales.

Tomorrow, we'll start supplying the information you didn't receive in the Times. One great way to knock down a lie? Disappear basic facts!

Tomorrow: In the era of "resegregation"....

30 comments:

  1. "That said, we think that false and misleading statements by journalists are a bad idea on the merits. So too with silly, simplified, pleasing fairy tales."

    The only misleading statement Somerby comes up with is the false link to the NAEP data, which doesn't break things down for Charlotte-Mecklenburg (but presumably does show data for North Carolina). There is no city data until 2003.

    On this basis, Somerby refers to lies by journalists! What is the lie? Somerby admits that the children may have done much better in desegregated schools. Is the lie about the white children? It isn't clear what lie Somerby is talking about, and it especially isn't clear that Hannah-Jones told a deliberate untruth with intent to deceive, Somerby's standard for a "lie".

    I see a lie by Somerby. He says that Biden's opposition to busing was based on politics. There is no evidence of that. In 1975, Biden argued that integration would prevent black kids from embracing their identity. That isn't a political argument. Biden said also that he thought busing wouldn't achieve desegregation (all evidence to the contrary was disappeared by Biden). Biden argued in 1975 that segregation was good for blacks.

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/joe-biden-embraced-segregation-in-1975-claiming-it-was-a-matter-of-black-pride

    So, Somerby is lying about Biden's beliefs and motivation.

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    1. On this basis, Somerby refers to lies by journalists! What is the lie? Somerby admits that the children may have done much better in desegregated schools. Is the lie about the white children? It isn't clear what lie Somerby is talking about, and it especially isn't clear that Hannah-Jones told a deliberate untruth with intent to deceive, Somerby's standard for a "lie”.

      Did you not read the blog entry or was it too complicated for you to understand?

      The “lie” is the one that Hannah-Jones defines, namely that “busing — or really, mandated desegregation — failed is a lie.”

      This isn’t about lies “by journalists” or a lie “about the white children” or deliberate untruth told by Hannah-Jones. It’s about a simple claim by one journalist, Nikole Hannah-Jones” that it’s a lie to label busing a failure.

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    2. “we think that false and misleading statements by journalists are a bad idea on the merits.”

      Did you miss this, deadrat?

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    3. Of course not. Journalists can write wrong and misleading things (like NH-J) and still not be liars. The accusation was NH-J's.

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  2. "Hannah-Jones goes on to say that CMS is now "the most segregated district in North Carolina," but she fails to report achievement patterns during this post-busing era. So it goes as the New York Times continues its war on the lies!"

    Wouldn't this data be contained in that 2012 NAEP report that Hannah-Jones linked to? Is Somerby really quibbling over whether the data was specifically attributed to Charlotte-Mecklenburg or encompassed within some larger entity (county or census tract)?

    If there is no way to use NAEP data to support or refute her claims about the impact of desegregation and resegregation, why does Somerby keep raising NAEP as the only way to make arguments about academic performance? Why does he himself keep citing NAEP? He cannot have this cake and eat it too. Maybe Somerby objects to having to use the data explorer tool but expects the report to explicitly state what Hannah-Jones attributes to it, not just provide the backup data for anyone who can read numbers to interpret?

    There is enough other evidence that kids in other districts have improved their academic performance after desegregation to take Hannah-Jones side on this and not Somerby's contention that she is "lying" in the sense that the cited NAEP data is somehow not supportive of improvement. I am not going to crawl into the weeds on Somerby's say so. It is up to Somerby to quote the NAEP data in that report that contradicts Hannah-Jones statements. Otherwise he needs to stop calling her a liar.

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    1. Wouldn't this data be contained in that 2012 NAEP report that Hannah-Jones linked to?

      You’d think so, since NH-J cited the report to support her contention that when CMS schools were integrated, “both black and white students saw achievement gains” But the report has nought to say about individual school districts, and if she’s talking in general, she probably shouldn't link CMS to the report.

      Is Somerby really quibbling over whether the data was specifically attributed to Charlotte-Mecklenburg or encompassed within some larger entity (county or census tract)?

      This isn’t a quibble. The data comes from 50K “public and private school” students and does not analyze the results geographically.

      If there is no way to use NAEP data to support or refute her claims about the impact of desegregation and resegregation, why does Somerby keep raising NAEP as the only way to make arguments about academic performance?

      There no way to use the NAEP report cited to support the claims. Other NAEP data is geographically specific. And it’s not the only way, just the way least likely to be jiggered by local school officials.

      There is enough other evidence that kids in other districts have improved their academic performance after desegregation to take Hannah-Jones side on this and not Somerby's contention that she is "lying" in the sense that the cited NAEP data is somehow not supportive of improvement.

      Please cite that “other evidence” and show that desegregation was a factor. Even if you could, why would that count as evidence for NH-J’s specific claim about CMS? And the NAEP data she quotes is not supportive of her claim.

      It is up to Somerby to quote the NAEP data in that report that contradicts Hannah-Jones statements.

      TDH said that the NAEP report in question doesn’t mention CMS, which contradicts NH-J’s implicit claim that her cite supports her claims about CMS. I checked. TDH is right.

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    2. I have cited several reports of busing successes over the past week or so.

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    3. @8:05, I'm sorry, but I missed them.

      OK, that is a lie. I'm not sorry. If you don't have the courtesy to use a nym, be prepared for the inability of others to follow your chain of argument and evidence.

      If the spirit moves you, post the links (or the date/time) of your comments on "busing successes" and I'll read them with interest. If not, then not.

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  3. Racist white people were opposed to busing for racial reasons. Those reasons had nothing to do with academic performance.

    Somerby glosses this racist reaction as "political" (as does Kevin Drum) but there is no disguising that it was a racial backlash.

    The question is whether our nation can let racism dictate public policies, including school administration. That is what the courts were examining. When the supreme court let Detroit evade desegregation, it rang the death knell for that city. Had it included the numerous white suburbs in a comprehensive desegregation plan, there would have been far less motivation for parents to take their kids outside the city, less white flight. Instead, the court let people enact segregation, which was bad for the children involved and bad for the city itself in the long run.

    Somerby pretends this is about political expediency and NAEP scores but it is about whether our country will permit white people to continue to discriminate against people of color in a nation where such behavior is at odds with our founding principles and values. Any other basis for discussion is the biggest lie.

    Biden made a deal with the devil. It is going to bite him in the ass during this election. Democrats cannot tolerate Biden's temporizing in the face of Trump's racial provocation. Biden is toast.

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  4. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District is not mentioned in that NAEP report cited by Hannah-Jones because it reports only nationwide data. It does make an extensive comparison between black and white students and describes the narrowing of the racial gap between them since the 1970s. That is no doubt why Hannah-Jones cited the report, to document the closing of that gap, the improvement of black students relative to white students, and the overall improvement of all students since the 1970s when desegregation began.

    It is not a lie to cite this data. It is only less specific, less particular to Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools than Somerby might wish. Calling it a lie is another sort of lie.

    But we already know that Somerby is a huge ass these days.

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  5. Here is another discussion of how well busing worked in Louisville, in the context of lack of support by politicians.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kamala-harris-joe-biden-busing-louisville_n_5d2ceff0e4b0bca60364197f

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  6. Yeah, Bob, the superior pale-faced beings miraculously improve brain-functioning of inferior dark-faced beings in their vicinity. Or so your liberal zombie cult would have us believe...

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    1. As has been stated numerous times, resources tend to follow white students. When black students go to school with white students, they share in those resources.

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    2. "resources tend to follow white [sic] students"

      Oh, but this is even better. So, you zombies practice pagan believes in which The Deity of Resources needs to be pleased by human sacrifices? Good to know.

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    3. All Lives Matter!
      Even the black and immigrant ones.

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  7. To blame Reagan on busing seems like a hell of a stretch to me. If it was a part of a larger "backlash" it was a very small part. 1976-1980 saw major media constantly bashing President Carter. Further there was a big primary fight between Carter and Kennedy which Ted took all the way to the convention.

    But the biggest reason was - greed. Reagan basically bought votes. A vote for Reagan was a vote for tax cuts, which means money in my pocket. Further, it means even more money in the pockets of people with deep pockets. You know the type, the ones who can afford big donations to a campaign. Especially if they pay for themselves. $20,000 in donations leads to $40,000 in tax cuts.

    Reaganomics dominated the country because it worked - politically. Mondale promised a tax increase and went down in flames. Clinton learned that lesson and ran as a Reaganite himself. He promised "middle class tax cuts" and attacked Bush as a guy who had increased taxes in spite of his promise not to.

    Jump to 2008 and Obama did the same thing. Democrats now are trying another tack. "Vote for me and you get free sh*t (paid for by other people's taxes)." It's a democracy, you gotta bribe those swing voters.

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    1. Free shit like freedom, equality, justice, educational opportunity, jobs, fair pay, reproductive rights, health care, social security and medicare, infrastructure maintenance and improvement, environmental protection, global climate change prevention, draining the swamp of corruption ushered in by Trump...you get the picture.

      Characterizing the common good as a bribe to the voters is craven and shouldn't be tolerated. This is massive evasion of responsibility to the people and to future generations. Democrats will run on a "clean house" platform and win because Trump is the destructor.

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    2. No, free sh*t (for some) like money to pay your student loan debts, and free college education, and reparations (if you have the right skin color) and free health care (if you are an illegal immigrant) etc.

      It's always nice when "the common good" translates into "money for me". But don't you dare call it a bribe.

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    3. A bribe involves a quid pro quo. Conservatives accept common good and then vote against the interests of the people and in favor of the interests of fat cats, or to dismantle efforts to help the common good. That surely demonstrates that whatever is being given that benefits people in various ways, it is not a bribe.

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    4. Dr. T sings the blues: “God bless the child that got his own.” And fuck the one that don’t.

      The common good can’t be funded if it’s even handed.

      If you forgive student debt, then you’ll have some people who paid for college and some people who didn’t. If you don’t forgive student debt, you have a generation of people saddled with mortgage-size debt when they start their working lives. What do you think that means for the economy? I guess Dr T was against the GI Bill.

      If you provide subsidized health care to illegal immigrants, then you’ll take care of the health of people who have violated the law to be here. If you refuse to treat them, then a lot of invisible sick people will harvest your food. Seems like a bad idea in an era when an epidemic can hop an intercontinental flight.

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    5. Conservatives have the good sense to want to die from disease, rather than help people in need.
      Probably because their Christians and have moral values. LOL.

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  8. Kevin Drum talks about the impact of desegregation on learning. He shows graphs for math and reading and claims:

    "Roughly speaking, the only region that showed a significant reduction in the black-white testing gap was the South—which was also the only region that showed a reduction in segregation. "

    This statement is true for reading but not true for math. As the graph clearly shows, the gap in math scores also changed, by the same amount, for the Northeast, not simply the South. The Northeast had busing to achieve desegregation to a greater extent than the West or Midwest.

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  9. LBJ became a single-term president because of his civil rights actions. Does that mean it was a bad idea to enact those laws? Of course not.

    There is a political cost to doing the right thing occasionally. When it comes to civil rights, changing the status quo will aggravate those in power. That will endanger whoever attempts it, politically speaking. But if we do not attempt to live by our ideals, we become just like every other country. And when we tolerate fascism and the isms that go with it (racism, sexism, misogyny, etc.), we become a country that isn't worth preserving much less inhabiting. And then those of us who are not white will be inspired to emigrate, just as Trump and his supporters plan.

    So people who care about our democracy, in the spirit of Harry Truman, LBJ, Jimmy Carter and Hillary Clinton, will need to take one for our country, politically speaking. The sacrifice is worth it.

    There are several kinds of backlash possible. In the 1970s, after the civil rights movement ended (according to Wikipedia) in 1968, most white people went back to sleep while others joined radical movements and the bombings began. There were several thousand each year, most perpetrated in the name of prison reform and civil rights for black people, and the rest in favor of nationhood for Puerto Rico. If there is a backlash among white people, there is also a backlash among minorities in our country, and the white people (aka liberals) who support civil rights for all.

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    1. Discussions of busing = Trump wins

      Discussions of income inequality and corporate influence on elections = Small chance Trump loses, population better informed

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    2. anon 12:06, you seem to have forgotten that the Vietnam War happened (or maybe didn't realize that it did).

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    3. Busing = relatively trival narrative invented by establishment Democrats so they don't have to discuss their own failures.

      Russiagate = the mother of all invented narratives pushed by establishment Democrats so they don't have to discuss their own failures.


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    4. Yassan Assan,
      Your concerns are my concerns.
      Unless you are black, a woman, or an immigrant, of course.

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  10. The Court also emphasized the importance of local control over the operation of schools.

    How are schools controlled when a regional policy regarding school assignment is adopted?

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    1. Do you have any idea how large Wayne County is? A trip to the google says over 600 square miles with about 50 municipalities. Back in the day in question, the population was about 2.5M. During that same day, schools were funded by property taxes levied by district. This isn't to say that a "regional policy" wouldn't have been better, but let's not pretend that it wouldn't come with the loss of local control.

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