Federal Education Policy and the States, 1945-2009
The Nixon Years: Congress and School Desegregation
Some credited the Nixon administration with the quicker pace of desegregation in the South in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but credit must go more appropriately to the federal courts and to Congress. Moreover, it was in these years that desegregation began to move from the South to the North. In 1970, representative John Stennis (D-MS), who had been perturbed that southern schools were under orders to integrate while northern schools remained racially imbalanced, introduced an amendment to the ESEA to extend desegregation requirements to schools affected by both de jure and de facto segregation (i.e., to both the South and the North). Despite objections from Senators Jacob Javits (R-NY) and Walter Mondale (D-MN), who feared the Stennis amendment would simply slow the process of desegregation in the South, and from Richard Nixon, who committed himself only to de jure desegregation and favored "neighborhood schools" and "school choice" in the North, the Stennis amendment passed. Under the new ESEA, then, parents lost the right to choose schools for their children if the aggregate effect of their choices resulted in racially imbalanced enrollments.