Throughout his administration years of 1969-74 President Richard Nixon time and again voiced his opposition to the compulsory busing of school children as a means to counteract segregation. The tax burden of mass busing, the dehumanizing act of reducing school children to statistics, and the destruction of the cherished neighborhood school concept all combined to make compulsory busing not only unpopular but also hazardous to the quality of education.
On February 17th, 1970, future president, and then California governor, Ronald Reagan issued a statement on the subject, adding his voice to the President’s anti-busing rhetoric by opposing busing in the strongest language available to a politician. View the statement below:
This statement condemned the Superior Court ruling requiring the compulsory busing of school children throughout the Los Angeles City School system, and encouraged opposition by every legal means. As governor Ronald Reagan was able to voice his discontent with Court orders in a way that was not available to the head of state. Where Nixon’s position as president required that he enforce compliance with court orders, Reagan was free to give full voice to his opposition and the opposition of his constituents:
“Mandatory bussing will shatter the concept of the neighborhood school as the cornerstone of our education system. What is worse, it will seriously undermine all the efforts to improve the quality of our public schools.”
Like President Nixon, Reagan’s position was not to maintain segregation, but rather to preserve the quality of education, particularly for minority groups. The fiscal and logistical burden of mass busing would not only take money away from instructional aids, new text books, and new classrooms, but would threaten projects designed specifically to help the minorities that it was intended to assist.
“The fact is, some of the most innovative and forward-looking projects for minority children in our public schools would be imperiled if bussing becomes mandatory…More than 600 bilingual specialists have been assigned to the neighborhood schools in Spanish speaking areas of the city to assist in resolving these youngster’s language problems—at the most critical period in the educational lives.
It is no wonder that so many parents of Mexican descent are opposed to bussing.”
Reagan appeals to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, pointing out that it does not condone compulsory busing to achieve social balance, and ends his statement by exhorting the administrative bodies of California to oppose forced busing.
“…I have asked the State Department of Education to explore and recommend all possible alternatives to mandatory bussing. Furthermore I have directed my legal staff to take all possible action to assist the Los Angeles Board of Education in its efforts to appeal the decision.”
In the meantime, it will be the continuing policy of this administration to vigorously oppose—by all/legal means—the forced bussing of California school children.”
In this statement we see a concordance of ideas between the two republicans. Where Nixon, as President, had no choice but to reluctantly enforce compliance with Supreme Court Orders, Governor Reagan was free to voice his discontent in no uncertain terms. Reagan’s opposition to the Superior Court ruling was thus an accessory to the many statements made by President Nixon against compulsory busing, and indicates the growing opposition of the general population.