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opens up. It is better to stick to the time-proved concept that neighborhood schools should reflect the neighborhoods which they serve.
Where “legal segregation” in schools exists in cities such as Washington and New York, the answer does not lie in frantic artificial devices which attempt to make our schools shoulder all the burdens of the community. It lies in the case of Washington, for example in the attraction of more whites to the central city, and the accompanying spread of a part of the central city Negro population to the suburbs. The factors which eventually will accomplish these things also are clear: Urban renewal, the elimination of discrimination in housing, fuller employment, improvements in the economic status of the Negro-most of all, the growth of understanding and social maturity.
These are not the fast or easy means. But so far as we know they are the only means by which a realistic attack on this problem can be made.
(From the Greensboro (N.C.) Daily News of June 21, 1963]
CIVIL RIGHTS IN AN OLD HAT
After an overture of weeks, ainst the ackdrop of gathering national crises in race relations, President Kennedy's new civil rights proposals might have been expected to rival in scope the tablet of stone from Sinai.
But aside from a few palatible elements the five-point program the President sent to Congress Wednesday is a disappointing mixture that couples unwarranted severity with unprecedented sweep.
To be sure, a few of the measures are due and harmless. Any well-conceived program to train displaced Negroes would be welcome. Eastern North Carolina knows the dimensions of this problem as well as any part of the country; and on the economic front, which is the real key to orderly racial advance, there cannot be too much emphasis.
Also, we would join the President in wishing the Civil Rights Commission preserved.
We remain chary of legislation under the commerce clause of the Constitution that would in effect strip away the right of a restaurant, theater, or motel or hotel owner to discriminate. Once it is established by law that the sale of goods carried across State lines bars discrimination, the vital distinction between public and private would hang by a slender thread—the vague distinction as to the degree of public involvement.
Without the most careful debate about the long-range implications, we are reluctant to see the right of a property owner to be protected against trespass compromised. Admittedly, it sometimes is imperative to rescue property from stubborn and wilful self-immolation, and if the law is to be changed we would repeat here our preference that it be changed by carefully composed legislation rather than by court decision.
Other features of the President's program admit of less debate:
The proposal to allow the Justice Department to file suits on its own motion against school boards and colleges to end segregation is a retread of the discredited title 4 which the Justice Department removed, at President Eisenhower's shocked insistence, from civil rights legislation more than 5 years ago. This device would require the hiring of a battery of lawyers of unforeseeable size; and it would open the door to a form of busy-body interferences with local authority as it deals with the ticklish problems of desegregation. At its worst it would sap the local initiative by which alone matters that affect local communities so intimately as school policy can be handled.
The other claw of the pincer-a proposal to subsidize school districts that voluntarily desegregate is an ignoble resort to bribery to accomplish what decent Americans will eventually accomplish because it is just and because supreme law requires it. Bribes for obeying the law strike us as the ultimate debasement of free government. How much is it going to be worth to refrain from murder and theft?
The request for legislation “to make it clear that the Federal Government is not required * * * to furnish financial help to a program or an activity in which racial discrimination occurs," unless we mistake it, embodies the U.S. Civil Rights Commission's foolish proposal that Mississippi be punished economically for “defying” the Constitution.
One is, frankly, left mystified by the President's own about-face. When the Civil Rights Commission proposed pocketbook penalties for Mississippi, Mr. Kennedy emphatically dissociated himself from the scheme, pleading that the move (even if constitutional) would be of doubtful wisdom and morality. Why does the President seek general permission to use a form of economic blackmail he refused-rightly—to use as late as 2 months ago?
On voting rights, there can of course be no compromise with principle. But the President submits two measures of very dubious value. One would enable “Federal referees" to give priority on court dockets to voting cases; but with most of the court dockets of the country jammed, who is to say that justice for all will be served by arbirarily giving voting cases pride of place?
And as for the proposal that a sixth grade education be considered prima facie evidence of "literacy,” it is a patently absurd mockery of the idea of literacy and we have so stated before.
As a package, the President's civil rights proposals are unimaginative and indeed old hat. But their greatest collective fault is that they would endow Federal officials—in the name of the noble cause of racial justice –with sweeping and unheralded authority to intrude in almost every nook of local life-superseding home authority, discouraging such voluntary effort as is encouragingly evident all over North Carolina and other States, and generally tempting those who should be thinking and working to think only of the mañana when Coxey's army of Federal officials will descend to do our work.
“An explosive national problem," so said the President Wednesday, “cannot await city-by-city solutions." Whoever believes that believes that the political fabric of the country is rotten. Mr. Kennedy does not himself believe it, or he would not have been urging voluntary action on local businessmen, clergymen, and editors, who have been visiting Washington in great droves recently.
If "city-by-city solutions” are impossible--and of course Greensboro and Charlotte and Raleigh and many other communities across the South are learning that they are indeed very possible—the outlook is bleak. What local authority cannot do, it is fanciful to think that the Federal Government, with some massive bureaucratic wisdom, can do better.
Senator ERVIN. Mr. Attorney General, I have voted on several occasions for financial aid to public schools in the belief that the Federal Government would permit the schools to remain free from Federal control, but I will have to admit that this bill shakes my faith.
In the first place, it gives the Attorney General discretionary power where the conditions described in the bill exist to initiate actions which would result in assignment of pupils by race at the dictation of the Federal Government in every school district in the United States.
Attorney General KENNEDY. Senator, that is not correct.
Senator ERVIN. Well, let me put on one more sentence and then I will hear your response.
Where there has been a “failure of the school board to achieve desegregation."
Now, what is incorrect in that statement?
Attorney General KENNEDY. As I understood it, you said, Senator, it was up to the Attorney General
Senator Ervin. I did not say that.
Senator ERVIN. I said it gave the Attorney General the discretionary power to initiate proceedings in court where the conditions set out in this bill exist to ask the Federal courts to take charge of the assignment of students to schools by race in every school district in the United States where there has been, to use the words of the bill, "a failure of the school board to achieve desegregation."
Attorney General KENNEDY. Yes. I did not hear, Senator, that part of it that dealt with the courts.
This, of course, is a decision by the courts, not by the Attorney General.
Senator Ervin. Yes, but the Attorney General would have the power to initiate the proceedings.
Attorney General KENNEDY. That is correct.
Senator Ervin. Which will result in the Federal courts acting in that capacity. That is one Federal intrusion.
Now, another one that shakes my faith is the unwillingness of the Federal Government to allow public schools in States to be run by their own boards without Federal intervention as found in subsection (b) of section 303, on page 20, where it says:
The Commissioner is authorized to arrange, through grants or contracts, with institutions of higher education for the operation of short-term or regular session institutes for special training designed to improve the ability of teachers, supervisors, counselors, and other elementary or secondary school personnel to deal effectively with special educational problems occasioned by desegregation or measures to adjust racial imbalance in public school systems.
Does that not authorize the Federal Commissioner of Education to undertake to have instruction conforming to his notions in this field given to the public school supervisors and teachers ?
Attorney General KENNEDY. Senator, I think this is not facing up to the fact that we have a problem here in the United States. We have a problem in education and we have a racial problem. Every community that has Negroes and whites and where there is a closer mingling than there has been in the past is having some difficulty.
One of the responsibilities of the Federal Government when we have these kinds of difficulties is to try to assist, and the legislation proposed in this field is for that purpose.
Now, I think you have had troubles in North Carolina, and we have had troubles in Massachusetts, but it is also all over the United States. We have troubles in many of our schools and this is an attempt to try to alleviate those difficulties. We are not dealing with this legislation in a vacuum, Senator. There are real problems here. That is why we suggested the legislation. That is why this aspect of the bill is so important.
Senator Ervin. My immediate problem is to secure an answer to the question which is, if this part of the bill would not authorize the Federal Commissioner of Education to take steps to have instruction conforming to his notions to be given to public school supervisors and teachers.
Attorney General KENNEDY. I think a better way of expressing it is that you would have special instructions given to teachers and other instructors who are having to deal with these kinds of problems in local areas.
Senator ERVIN. While the Federal Government would not undertake to have anything to do with the instruction of children in this particular provision, it would undertake to offer services with the use of Federal tax money to educate the supervisors and teachers of the public schools according to the ideas of the Federal Commissioner of Education in respect to school desegregation and racially imbalanced schools.
Attorney General KENNEDY. No, Senator, to discuss with them the particular problems that will have to be faced.
I do not see why there should be any objection to it when, as I say, this is a difficulty that many communities are having to face at the present time, and to be able to give them some assistance would appear to me to be desirable.
I will tell you, Senator, since I have been Attorney General, we have had it has been most informal, but we have had-many, many contacts with school districts and schools and heads of institutions on a quiet, informal basis, dealing with this kind of problem. After the transition has been made in some districts, teachers or instructors or the heads of school boards have gone to other districts and talked with them about making a transition.
Now it is getting to be more and more of a problem in the United States, so therefore we are advocating setting up a more formal procedure to aid in this kind of transition. It is that simple, Senator.
Senator Ervin. It is very simple. It is a provision to authorize the use of tax moneys to give instruction to supervisors and teachers in the public schools of the State in respect to ideas of the Federal Commission of Education.
You may consider it laudatory. I consider it an effort on the part of the Federal Government to influence instruction in the public schools. The instruction is to be confined to supervisors and teachers and the like, but nevertheless, it is an opening wedge for the Federal Government to indoctrinate those who operate public schools.
Attorney General KENNEDY. It is designed to improve the ability of teachers, supervisors, counselors, and other elementary or secondary school personnel to deal effectively with special education problems occasioned by desegregation or measures to adjust racial imbalance in public school systems.
Senator ERVIN. That is exactly what I said. It is to indoctrinate teachers with notions of the Federal Commissioner of Education on this point.
Section 304(a) reads as follows:
A school board which has failed to achieve desegregation in all public schools within the jurisdiction, or a school board which is confronted with problems arising from racial imbalance in the public schools within the jurisdiction, may apply to the Commissioner, either directly or through another governmental unit, for a grant or loan, as hereinafter provided, for the purpose of aiding such school board in carrying out desegregation or in dealing with problems of racial imbalance.
Putting that in plain English, does not that mean the Federal Commissioner of Education can make grants and loans to be used in transporting children from their neighborhoods into other communities for the purpose of racially mixing the schools in other communities?
Attorney General KENNEDY. No. The school district, Senator, the local school authorities would make a decision as to what steps they should take in order to desegregate or deal with racial imbalance. That is completely up to the local authorities. Then if they need help and assistance in going through this difficult transition, if they need a grant or a loan from the Federal Government, the Federal Government would be available to help them. But the decision as to what steps should be taken would be determined by the local school district.
Senator Ervin. I am not contesting that point.
My question is this: If that provision would not authorize the Federal Commissioner of Education to make loans and grants to local school boards to be used to transport children from their own neighborhoods into other communities for the purpose of mixing the races in the schools in the other communities in order to achieve what somebody might conceive to be a racially balanced school.
Attorney General KENNEDY. First, Senator, whatever decision is made in this area is made by the local school district as to what steps they feel need to be taken in order to achieve the best possible result; and second, the grants would not be used for that particular purpose. Section 304(b), (1) and (2), sets forth specifically what the funds will be used for. Under subsection (1) under (b):
The Commissioner may make a grant under this section, upon application therefor, for (1) the cost of giving to teachers and other school personnel inservice training dealing with problems incident to desegregation or racial imbalance in public schools.
And under subsection (2):
The cost of employing specialists in problems incident to desegregation or racial imbalance and of providing assistance to develop understanding of these problems by parents, schoolchildren, and the general public.
Senator Ervin. Mr. Attorney General, the specifications set out in (1) and (2) of subsection (b) of section 304 do not relate to subsection (a) of section 304. Subsection (b) of section 304 is not a limitation upon subsection (a) of section 304. The words "as hereinafter provided” refer to subsection (c) of section 304, which specifies that each grant under section 304 shall be “on such terms and conditions as the Commissioner shall prescribe.” As I read it, subsection (a) of section 304 is a complete section in itself and it provides that a school board may make application to the Commissioner for grants or loans "as hereinafter provided for the purpose of aiding such school board in carrying out desegregation or in dealing with problems of racial imbalance.
My interpretation that subsection (b) of section 304 does not constitute a limitation upon subsection (à) of section 304 finds conclusive support in the fact that subsection (a) of section 304 authorizes the Federal Commissioner of Education to make both grants and loans, whereas subsection (b) of section 304 merely authorizes him to make grants.
Attorney General KENNEDY. Senator, under section 304, subsection (a), a school board may apply to the Commissioner, either directly or through another Government unit, for a grant or loan as hereinafter provided. Then 304(b) says that the Commissioner may make a grant under this section-i.e., section 304—upon application therefor, for the specific purposes set out in (1) and (2).
I think it is quite clear that (1) and (2) of 304(b) apply to 304(a). I do not see how there can be any other interpretation, Senator.
Senator ERVIN. It says in the section you talk about, subsection (a) of subsection (b), it says it can give "the cost of giving to teachers and other school personnel inservice training in dealing with problems incident to desegregation or racial imbalance in public schools."
Attorney General KENNEDY. Yes.
Senator ERVIN. Are not part of the service personnel of school bus drivers ?
Attorney General KENNEDY. You mean they are going to train bus drivers how to drive a bus?
Senator ERVIN. Yes.
Senator ERVIN. And how to handle the problems incident to desegregation or racial imbalance in public schools, and one of those problems is getting the children and transporting them.