Urban Center Solutions To Imbalance Rejected


The Boston School Committee refused Thursday to accept any of eight racial redistricting proposals drawn by the Harvard-M.I.T. Joint Center for Urban Studies.

By voting 3-2 not to consider the eight proposals, the School Committee removed the Joint Center from further participation in the attempt to solve the racial imbalance problem in Boston schools.

The eight plans were part of a 27-page report the Joint Center had prepared along with the Massachusetts Department of Education Task Force on Racial Imbalance.

The Center worked on the redistricting alternatives for four months. James Q. Wilson, director of the Joint Center and associate professor of Government, declined to estimate the cost of the project, financed entirely with the Joint Center's own funds. Staff member MacDonald Barr worked on the project full time, 12 hours a day, and there were usually five or six other researchers assisting him.

Wilson said that the Joint Center had no intention of ending its involvement with Boston civic affairs. He added, though, "we could never duplicate the concentrated effort we put into this project--we simply don't have the manpower or the money." Wilson said that calling the rejection of the redistricting report a disappointment to the Joint Center "would be the greatest understatement of many years."

Assistant School Superintendent William G. Tobin quashed the chance that the more moderate of the Center's redistricting alternatives might at least get further consideration when he told the School Committee, "No part of this plan is educationally defensible; in my opinion, it does more harm than good."

Tobin was assigned by the School Committee to work with the Joint Center. For the last four weeks he has helped them prepare the final draft of the report. His testimony was thus particularly significant and ended the hopes of the School Committee's liberal wing--led by Chairman Thomas S. Eisenstadt--that some of the redistricting suggestions could be incorporated into a comprehensive imbalance plan.

The School Committee must show the State Department of Education how it plans to eliminate racial imbalances in Boston Schools before it can receive $41 million in state aid. By voting not to consider redistricting as a possible solution, the committee left itself with only a warmed over version of a plan the state projected last April.

That plan duplicates most of last April's proposals, including a long-range building program and a pledge to strengthen "compensatory education" and open-enrollment policies which the city has already adopted. The only significant change is the insertion of the METCO plan for busing Negro children to the suburbs.

But the METCO plan involves only 250 children. There are presently 27,000 Negroes in racially imbalanced Boston schools. The most extreme of the Joint Center's eight alternative proposals would have moved 1620 Negroes out of schools that are presently more than 50 per cent non-white. The most moderate plan would have forced 180 children, of various races, to change schools