Members of our Cleveland area affiliate of the National Association for Neighborhood Schools met with Congressman Hoke last December to discuss what Congress could do to bring an end to a practice that has devastated our school system and our city.
We express appreciation to Congressman Hoke for his response on this matter of utmost concern to not only his constituents here, but to the nation as a whole and we thank members of the committee who have traveled here today to hear tetimony.
Cleveland was found guilty of operating a segregated school system. Things had been done deliberately to keep black students in certain schools and there were instances that facilities, equipment etc. in predominantly black schools was not of the quality as those in white schools. Such discriminatory actions were, and are, absolutely wrong.
But the court order in Cleveland did not provide equal opportunity nor did it end the deliberate assignment to schools and exclusion from schools on the basis of race, color or nationality.
On the contrary the court order required deliberate racial assignment and exclusion to achieve and maintain racial quotas in nearly every school-related situation.
Neither did the court order provide equal opportunity. A classic example appeared in a recent newspaper advertisement for 12 magnet school programs. Ten of the twelve programs being advertised excluded black students from applying. Their presence, you see, would disturb the prescribed racial makeup of these programs Yet, this blatent racial discrimination is called a "remedy" for past discrimination.
The court order began, and continues, a vicious, steady downhill spiral. Before forced busing 75% of Cleveland public school students graduated. Today the figure is 26.6%. The school system lost its tax base as thousands fled to private education, to suburbs, to home schooling, or simply dropped out. School enrollment is now only half of what it was before the court order. The result of this continuing exodus from Cleveland by those financially able to escape is a city in which a large portion students remaining in Cleveland public schools are from families with limited financial resources. The end result is decaying neighborhoods.
Discipline problems have soared. Parental involvement took a nose dive. Parents simply cannot spread themselves all over Cleveland. However, gang activity and drug peddling was spread all over Cleveland. Absenteeism increased drastically. Children were subjected to daily dangers on buses and in schools where other students did not welcome them. Gone was the feeling of belonging and community pride in the neighborhood schools that had been vital hubs of our communities. The hours wasted on buses curtailed participation in outside activities, family acitivities, and part-time jobs for older students. We have had calls from parents describing how their families had split up - fathers staying in Cleveland to work while mothers took the children and moved in with grandparents and other relatives in other towns where children could go to schools close to where they lived. Some gave guardianship of their children over to relatives.
What happens when you lose half your school population and your tax base and disgusted citizens who have lost all confidence in the school system and the so-called remedial action refuse to pass levies? Schools fell into disrepair. Many have been closed, and the court has ordered more to be closed. Students who attended them are bused somewhere else, creating still more resentment and anger.
The cost required to carry out the court orders is astronomical. Since 1983 the cost to the state of Ohio for forced busing in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Lorain has been $562,204,247. Attorney fees have cost the state $4,489,197 for a total cost to the state of $566, 695,443. Since total costs are shared by local districts and the state, this figure represents only about half the cost in Ohio. Multiply by two and you get over a billion dollars spent in the last 13 years that can be accounted for. The local cost in Cleveland has been over $30 million each year. We maintain that there are many additional hidden costs. That kind of money would have kept a lot of neighborhood schools open and in good repair and bought a lot of books and equipment.
Almost daily for nearly two decades parents have relayed horror stories caused by forced busing to us - missed buses, late buses, bus accidents, children lost in neighborhoods far from home, children's fears of going to the restroom, fights, rapes, even murder. Realtors tell us that as soon as families have children approaching school age, they put their homes up for sale.
Teachers tell us that under such chaos and shuffling of bodies and late buses and increased discipline problems and absenteeism, it is miraculous that any learning takes place.
As director of the communications office for a national organization that has worked since 1976 for neighborhood schools and the freedom to attend them, I must emphasize also that Cleveland is not unique.
In Boston, Judge Arthur Garrity's take-over devastated that school system. In New Castle County Delaware Judge Murray Schwartz eliminated eleven school districts, merging them into one, and students were bused all over northern New Castle County.
In Denver, Colorado, the judge refused to release the District so long as an amendment to the state constitution forbidding forced busing remained intact. In Kansas City, Judge Russell Clark ordered taxation without representation, to pay for his elaborate and grossly expensive scheme. The list goes on and on, and the reaction of the public is the same.
One of the Plaintiff attorneys in the Cleveland case recently said, "This isn't a parental choice lawsuit. It is a desegregation lawsuit." To him desegregation obviously means racially balancing schools. To parents and students it means freedom to attend them, the intent of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. When our organization collected the petitions of over 30,000 Clevelanders demanding the school board immediately seek release from the court, these petitions of the citizens were called "so much toilet paper" and local and state elected officials who joined our effort were threatened with "the awesome power of the federal court."
Obviously, if the law and the courts do not protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens, regardless of race, color or nationality, but rather allow social engineers to implement what they decide is best for us, and what is best for them politically, financially and egotistically, then something has gone very far astray and must be corrected.
When Judge Krupansky took over the Cleveland case, he announced that if any state law would impede implementation of his orders, such law was held to be inapplicable. The judge has now stripped all power from the elected Cleveland school board, turning the system over to the state. Even if the judge were "wisdom incarnate" and totally right in his assessment of inadequacies of the school board, it should not be his role to disenfranchise the public. Neither benevolent nor malevolent dictatorship has a place in our form of government. Four of our seven-member school board have therefore resigned.
The judicial activism of which we complain extends far beyond school desegregation cases. Instance after instance could be cited in which the federal judiciary is in effect making representative government obsolete. Indeed one of the most tragic results of forced busing is that citizens have lost faith in their government. They have observed for too many years that those they have elected to school boards, to Congress, or to any elected office, have failed to represent them. Many have simply given up on the political process through which needed changes in the law can and should be made.
We realize that limiting the federal courts will not stop state and local authorities from embarking on their on racial balancing schemes, backed by activist state judges. An example is Cleveland's Consent Decree in place and the racial balance mandates of Vision 21, a total reorganization plan approved by the school board.
However, with the threat of federal court action removed, the people, working through their state legislatures and state constitutions as well as locally, can bring an end to the racial control by blocking the language of the 1964 Civil Rights Act into state law and sound educational systems that are not racially discriminatory can be achieved.
Court remedial orders in cases of actual deliberate segregation and racially discriminatory practices are applauded by most people, but only if those orders are limited to those that actually end the offensive practices and achieve the freedom of access to schools and programs and facilities and equipment without regard to race, color or nationality.
Congress does have the authority under Article III of the U.S. Constitution to remove or limit judicial power. Furthermore, Congress has done so in the past when necessary. This is one of the checks and balances in our government intended to prevent any of the three federal branches from building inordinate power. The Supreme Court has itself acknowledged this congressional authority on numerous occasions. And Congress has the power to make all laws necessary and proper to carry out its authority.
Recent Supreme Court decisions show a realization that court action has gone too far. But those decisions have been by a narrow 5-4 vote and left too many foggy areas to deal with, meaning years of continued court battles as districts attempt to gain release based on those decisions. A change of one swing vote or a new appointment to the Court could put us back to square one.
So long as this nation is subject to law established by 5 unelected men and women (a majority of the Supreme Court justices), or appointed district judges who trample laws made by the people if they are in the way of their decrees, we are in trouble.
It is time for court-limiting legislation to end this mockery of justice.
Joyce B. Haws
The National Association for Neighborhood Schools
3905 Muriel Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44109