Desegregation isn't just Joe Biden's problem, it's Delaware's also (Matt Albright)
Reference how Sen. Kamala Harris attacked former Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential candidates debate (Miami, June 28) and how the latter failed to respond effectively. This exchange isn’t likely to seriously wound the former vice president, “but it illustrates how Biden struggles to articulately defend his record on desegregation."
The simplistic view would be that Biden made the wrong call in the 1970s by opposing busing and history is judging him now. But this overlooks the fact that “plenty of respected black community leaders argued at the time that busing was a bad idea. And it certainly isn’t hard to find respected black voices now who say it failed,” e.g., Bebe Coker and former Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker.
Sure, some of the white people who opposed busing were racist, but many of Biden’s constituents thought busing children all over the county was a bad idea and he wasn’t wrong to listen to them and try to represent their concerns.
As soon as the busing order was lifted, “Delaware started undoing it with laws like the Neighborhood Schools Act, charter schools and school choice.” Today, some public schools in Wilmington are 80% to 90% black, And the academic outcomes in those schools are atrocious by any measure, far worse than students in mostly white suburban schools.” So obviously, busing – which was mandated despite Biden’s opposition – can’t be seen as a success.
This illustrates “a hard reality,” which is that there is just so much a judge can do to force change that the public doesn’t want.” And, there are “limits to how much a court can tackle complicated problems like educational equality without buy-in from elected officials and the people who vote for them. It’s one thing for a judge to require clerks of court to marry gay couples – it’s an entirely different thing for courts to concoct enormous, complicated bureaucratic solutions to complex social problems.”
Maybe that’s the point Biden was trying to make in the debate, i.e., busing decisions needed to be made at the local level, but he wasn’t able to boil down into a minute or so “sound bite.”
The issue is not in the past tense, either, because today “Chancery Court Judge Travis Lester is hearing a potentially seminal lawsuit that argues Delaware’s school funding is so unfair to poor kids, kids of color, and kids learning English that it violates the Constitution. There are strong signs that the judge intends to rule in favor of the plaintiffs, which would be the most important education-related court ruling since desegregation.” If so, “will we, through the elected leaders we pick, take heed, and make the tough choices necessary to fix it?”
Based on the writer’s own arguments in this column, the courts should stay out of the current dispute and leave the field clear for the executive and legislative branches of government to address it. See Funding Delaware’s Schools, Conservative Caucus of Delaware newsletter, 7/1/19.