Every Little Breeze Whispers Louise

"I have been elected to the School Committee, and that's what I will be." Whatever it was supposed to mean Louise Day Hicks's victorious burble sums up her mandate from the voters of Boston. Disencumbered of Arthur Garland's opposition and with four newly elected colleagues still huddling in her shadow, Boston's political Leviathan will be making or breaking school policies all by herself for the next two years.

By massively endorsing Louise Hicks, Boston has reminded the nation that democracy has two faces: "This-tonight-is a vote of confidence," Mrs. Hicks said Tuesday. "The people are speaking. Sometimes we hear just a vocal minority, but tonight, through the democratic process, we are hearing the majority." Next morning, defeated candidate Melvin King, a Negro, was telling reporters, "A little bit of democracy died in Boston yesterday."

Boston elected Mrs. Hicks to preserve the neighborhood school," which is a polite way of saying de facto segregation. She carried 15 of the city's 22 wards, and of the seven intransigent yards, five are predominantly Negro. In another, Mrs. Hicks missed first place by only five votes.

Arthur Gartland, the only incumbent who spoke out against racial imbalance, won a plurality of votes only in the Back-Bay-Beacon Hill area and in Allston. Both are middle-class white neighborhoods, buffered from Roxbury geographically as well as economically. In the final totals Gartland was shoved out of the number have position by John J. McDonough, a complete newcomer whose only stated virtue was his accordance with Mrs. Hicks's philosophy.

As an incumbent, Gartland had been expected slip back into office amidst the general clamor for the status quo. The Wednesday newspapers blamed the loss on his affiliation with a reform group, the Citizens for Boston Schools. The citizens backed four candidates besides Gartland, all of whom lost after managing to get on the final ballot. The introduction of this reform slate crystallized the racial problem as a political issue.


Complying With the Law

Although the thrust of its campaign was toward overhauling Boston's archaic educational practices and facilities, the Citizens group tamely advocated compliance with the new Massachusetts Racial Imbalance Bill. This law, passed in July, requires local school boards to submit by November 22 plans to eliminate non-white majorities in any given school.

But in late August, Committeeman Thomas Eisenstadt ignited the racial issue by attempting to block the busing of 583 children out of over-crowded Roxbury schools, a plan proposed by the Superintendent. Eisenstadt's motion passed, with Gartland and Thomas Lee dissenting. Although nearly a thousand pupils of both races had been bused the year before, for the same reasons, busing suddenly loomed as a dramatic threat of the "neighborhood school."

Negro parents responded to the busing edict with Operation Exodus. They privately arranged to bus 300 of their children out of the Roxbury schools which were doomed to over-crowding and possible double sessions. Residents of Dorchester, West Roxbury, Jamacia Plain, Hyde Park, and Roslindale all got a taste of the real thing, as Negro children began to enroll in their schools.

The Citizens' pamphleteers worked day and night to counter the anti-busing fervor. They wrote, "the issue [racial imbalance] has been clouded by the false emphasis on busing, which has frightened people into forgetting that the real issue is educational progress of all children." They cited the Kiernan report, the document which led to the Imbalance Law, to prove that segregation was educationally harmful. Mrs. Hicks responded by pledging, in effect, to ignore the law. And one week ago, Mrs. Hicks and her four disciples rode a school bus into office.

Of the successful candidates, only Mrs. Hicks did any campaigning. But she plugged Eisenstadt, Lee, O'Connor, and McDonough whenever she got the chance. She spoke ominously of "busing all over the city," encouraging the casual bigots' fears that their children might someday be bused into Negro neighborhood schools, although law requires that parents give permission before their children can be transported.

Joseph Lee allowed himself to be identified with Mrs. Hicks, despite his August vote in favor of busing. Lee has always been fairly outspoken in his opposition to the principle of racial balancing, but he has his own scheme for satisfying the state requirements. Dubbed "scatteration," the plan calls for shipping Negro children to suburban schools, where Boston would pay their tuition. Theoretically this would halt the exodus of white Boston residents to the lily-white suburbs.

Successful Bedfellows

Apparently Eisenstack felt his voter strength had been slipping ever since he voted for meeting with the leaders of the 1964 school boycott, but his busing stand unequivocally bonded him to Mrs. Hicks in political wedlock. He ran second. Thomas O'Connor, has never, in his four years on the Committee, been known to vote against Mrs. Hicks.

Boston reporters notwithstanding, Arthur Gartland '36 seemed to know exactly what he was risking when he lent his name to the Citizens for Boston Schools. The Hicks juggernaut was proclaiming the current excellence of Boston schools. In his campaign speeches, Gartland pointed to the $29 million in building funds which has been available to the Committee since a 1963 bond issue; only $2.2 million of this has been allocated to date, although in some schools, more than 40 pupils are crowded into classrooms. Gartland also critized the obsolete vocational training program, the large number of temporary, unlicensed teachers now employed in Boston, and the old examination system of teacherhiring. He cited the reading scores of Boston school children in the fourth through twelfth grades, which are considerably below the national average. And he attacked racial imbalance.