Phase I and The State Plan
The State Plan was initially presented as a temporary and introductory plan until such time that the School Committee could complete their own to a satisfactory degree. The Board of Education selected members for a group called the Task Force on Racial Imbalance in order to produce a plan of their own. The Task Force, headed by Dr. Charles Glenn, consisted of twelve members including Glenn. The members hailed from the Bureau of Equal Educational Opportunity, the Division of School Facilities and Related Services, the Bureau of School District Reorganization and Collaboration, and an attorney and a special consultant from Rhode Island College. The State Plan provided a two-pronged approach to begin the process. By establishing new school districts, the plan hoped to create more racially balanced geo-codes; similarly, to achieve a more balanced student body and utilize the open seats in schools, the plan required busing students, with some located farther away than their pervious neighborhood schools. Judge Garrity in his opinion recognized that these two approaches were the “traditional methods” for desegregation, but acknowledged the distaste Boston seemed to have for them. Originally, the State Plan was only to meet the limited requirements of the Racial Imbalance Act, until a complete plan was finished, submitted, and approved by the court.
The State Plan submitted by the Task Force on Racial Imbalance went through changes over the years. The most significant being those proposed by Professor Louise Jaffee, of Harvard Law School, who held hearings, in 1973, to get input from community groups and individuals. Jaffee took these ideas and submitted revision recommendations to the Board, who accepted most of the changes to the plan. The school committee also submitted recommendations for changes, some of which were accepted.
Professor Jaffee’s recommendations made their way into the plan with one major exception; South Boston High and Roxbury High. Within the State Plan, these schools were to be in the same district. South Boston was 99% white as explained earlier and Roxbury was predominately black. Formisano described that both schools “were rated among the worst in the city educationally” so it seemed incredible to people that the pairing was suggested. Jaffee endorsed waiting until after the first year to include South Boston ad Roxbury, but the board rejected this. David Frum author of How We Got Here: The 70s the Decade that Brought You Modern Life (For Better or Worse) argued that “Roxbury and South Boston were generally regarded as the two worst schools in Boston, and it was never clear what educational purpose was to be served by jumbling them.” This was a pairing neither side wanted to see, South Boston and Roxbury High schools were the main scenes of violence. In March of 1974, the same year as Garrity’s decision, the board finalized the State Plan.
The plan itself was simple in it nature. The main point of the plan was that of redistricting the city of Boston. The Task force believed that this could far more effectively integrate schools than other options. In redistricting, the task force attempted to put together districts with a population of school age children that was more similar to the overall population of the city. Meaning that if the city had 16% African American populations, 3% other population, and the rest considered white, then each school should reflect this make up, and therefore each district should reflect it just the same. This plan resolved to use busing only to transport students who could not fit in the schools within their district to schools that had open seats. In the past the school committee had severely overcrowded some schools and under-utilized others. This plan hoped to remedy that problem. In addition to re-drawing the districts, the school system moved away from having elementary, middle, junior high and high schools replacing it with a simpler system, elementary schools housing grades K-4, middles schools housing 5-8, and high schools housing 9-12. With this move, the task force found it would be easier to assign students to schools because with this system the confusing feeder patterns were obsolete.
The maps in this section provide a look at how boundary lines existed in order to promote desegregation. In different versions of the state plan, the maps differ slightly as adjustments changed the boundaries. The planners changed the lines to keep boundaries along major roadways or railways for ease of travel for students. This also kept children who had previously crossed major roads such as the VFW from having to cross them anymore. The districts were set up in order to make safety the top priority. If the safety experts could not conceive a safe route for buses, walking, or public transportation the plan received more changes. The planners concluded that some schools would remain unbalanced because there were major safety concerns involved.
Maps from the Revised Short Term Plan on Racial Imbalance. 1973.
Maps from the Short Term Plan on Racial Imbalance. 1974.
Throughout the State Plan, redistricting is the main method for integrating Boston’s public schools but busing would occur. The Board of Education estimated that only 6,000 students would need busing in the 1974 academic year, but the school committee alleged that the number would be closer to 19,000. The Boston Globe fell somewhere between these estimates and told the public that about 10,000 students would bus. There is no true consensus on how many students actually bused during that school year as the student population varied so much throughout the year. It seems incredible that the Board’s estimates were so different from those of the school committees.
Originally the State Plan did not call for much busing. The State Plan was severely limited in what it proposed to accomplish on paper. The Boston Globe disclosed in an article on June 25th, 1974 that “U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr. said yesterday his court will consider on Thursday what steps beyond the limited state balance plan could be taken to desegregate Boston schools this fall.” This article set the stage for a bigger Phase I plan. Even though the entirety of implementation was symbolically in the hands of the school committee, given their record Garrity took much of that on himself.