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The free transportation of school children to and from their homes and their school and school activities. Included as part of the annual school budget, busing became a necessity when passage of state compulsory education laws required students in even the most remote rural areas to attend centrally located schools. Busing expanded during World War II as gasoline rationing made it impossible for most children in rural areas to get to school by car. The school consolidation movement of the 1950s and the mass migration to the suburbs made busing the standard method of school transportation for the vast majority of students in the United States.
Busing became a center of controversy in the 1970s, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in SWANN V. CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG BOARD OF EDUCATION. In its decision, the Court ordered the board to bus students out of their districts, if necessary, to carry out Courtordered racial desegregation of public schools. Although integration-related busing affected less than 10% of the school population, it met considerable opposition from both black and white parents. Black parents protested busing young children as much as an hour or more each way to white suburban schools, partly because the distances to such schools made it difficult both for their children to participate in after-school activities and for poor parents to involve themselves in school affairs. Some white parents, meanwhile, protested their children being transferred from excellent suburban schools to mediocre or substandard inner-city schools. In reaction, many transferred their children to all-white private schools. The results were all-but-total de facto segregation of black students at inner-city schools and a net deterioration in academic quality in all-black neighborhoods, and, one by one, the school districts under court edict to bus children to out-of-district schools applied for—and obtained—relief from busing orders. By the beginning of the 1999 school year, Charlotte, Boston and other cities had abandoned their busing plans, and busing as a vehicle for desegregation all but came to a halt across the United States.
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