National Controversy Over Busing
Entry of Busing Issue Into Election-Year Politics
Almost twenty million elementary and high school children—42 per cent of the total—now ride buses to and from school. The vast majority do so because schools are not within walking distance of their homes. Increasing numbers, however, are transported to distant schools because those in their areas are racially segregated. Busing of school children to achieve integration has become politically explosive and is shaping up as the dominant emotional issue in this election year.
A wave of opposition has moved Congress to act on anti-busing measures and open hearings on about 40 proposed constitutional amendments to curb busing as a tool of integration. President Nixon, who has consistently stressed his opposition to “forced busing,” has asked a study group to recommend a course of action. And voters in the presidential primary election in Florida on March 14 will be asked whether they would favor a constitutional amendment, if one were offered, to “prohibit forced busing and guarantee the right of each student to attend the appropriate school nearest his home.”
The ballot question not only has been topic A in the Florida primary but has had a visible impact on national politics. Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in Florida have felt impelled to speak out on busing—perhaps more explicitly than they would have cared to do in other circumstances. Moreover, political commentators have suggested that the straw vote will attract a large turnout of busing foes and boost the candidacy of Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, who has loudly denounced court-ordered busing.