O AKDALE C OUNTY S CHOOL B USING
The Oakdale County School Board was meeting in special session. A federal judge had ordered the board to present an acceptable busing plan for racially balancing the four high schools in Oakdale County within a week. The judge had previously given the school board several opportunities to informally present a plan, but the members had been unable to agree among themselves . Every time they met and started to develop a plan to bus students from one high school district to another, an argument would arise before they got past the first busing move, and they would adjourn the meeting. This time, however, they knew the judge had lost patience and they had to agree on something.
Of the four schools, only West High School was racially balanced, with 500 white students and 500 black students. North High School had 1,000 white students and only 300 black students; East High School was almost as bad, with 1,050 white students and 400 black students. South High School was predominantly black, with 800 black students and 450 white students. Overall, of the 5,000 students in Oakdale County, 60% were white and 40% black.
"Look," said John Connor, a school board member from the West district, "rather than starting off by trying to shift students from one district to another, why don't we try to establish what we want to accomplishyou know, what our goals are?"
Several of the other members nodded in agreement, and Fred Harvey, the board chairman, said, "Good idea, John."
"Okay, the first goal seems pretty evident to me," John said. "Sixty percent of our students are white, and 40% are black, so that's what we need our schools to be, 60% and 40%."
"That's okay for you to say, John," Betty Philips argued, "because your district has those proportions alreadyso you won't have any busing. But my district in the North is a long way from that ratio, and we would have to bus a lot of our students to achieve a 60%/40% ratio."
" I'm not saying it, Betty," said John. "That is basically what Judge Barry has been saying for 6 months."
"John's right, Betty, and we're not busing students yet; we're just putting down our objectives," said Fred. "I think that has to be our highest-priority objective. How about the rest of you?"
They all nodded their agreement, even Betty Philips, reluctantly.
"Since we know we're going to have to bus students to achieve this ratio at each school, I think we ought to try to minimize the amount of traveling the students will have to do," suggested Mickey Gibboney, a member from the South district.
Fred Harvey noted that page 10 of their handout had a chart showing the average mileage a student in one district would have to travel on a bus to the high school in each of the other districts. The chart looked like this:
"Why don't we try to set some reasonable objectives for total busing miles, for the students' sake and for budgeting reasons?" Cassandra Watkins asked. "I would suggest about 30,000 miles per day, based on the miles we bus students now. If we get much higher than that, we're not going to have the money to pay for it, and it means we'll be busing students all over the place."
The other members nodded and agreed.
"Okay," said Fred Harvey, "that'll be our number-two goal."
Betty Philips spoke up again. "I'll tell you another thing I don't want to see happen, and that's any more overcrowding at North High School. We have 100 students more than capacity now."
"You think you have problems!" Bob Wilson exclaimed. "In East we have 1,450 students and capacity for 1,000. I think no overcrowding is a great idea!"
"I agree," said Mickey Gibboney. "We're 250 over our capacity at South High School."
"That's a nice idea," John Connor responded, "and I realize that we have 200 students less than our capacity at West High School. However, let's face it, in the county we have capacity for 4,400, not 5,000, students, so there's going to be some overcrowding. I think our objective should be that all four schools share in the overcrowding proportionally."
"That sounds reasonable to me," said Fred Harvey. "How about the rest of you? Okay to say our number-three goal is to be as close to capacity at each school as possible but share proportionally in the overcrowding?"
They all voiced their approval.
"Well," John Connor concluded, "I think we have identified the things we want to accomplish in our plan. Now if we could just use some magic trick to find a plan for busing students between the districts that would achieve all these goals."
The others nodded and frowned.