TODAY I am signing into law the Education Amendments of 1972. This legislation includes comprehensive higher education provisions, authority for a new effort to revitalize our educational research effort, and authority to provide financial assistance to school districts to meet special problems incident to desegregation.
It also contains provisions supposedly directed at limiting court decisions dealing with busing. These provisions, however, are inadequate, misleading, and entirely unsatisfactory.
In March of 1970, I asked that aid to students enrolled in postsecondary institutions be expanded and redirected to assure every qualified student that he would be eligible for a combination of Federal grants and subsidized loans sufficient to make up the difference between his college costs and what his family is able to contribute. Congress has provided that opportunity, to an extent, through a program of grants for eligible students and aid from the existing Educational Opportunity Grant, College Work-Study, and National Defense and Guaranteed Student Loan programs.
Unfortunately, certain restrictions placed in the law by the Congress mean that we will not be able to realize fully our principles of equity. But as confidence develops in the new programs, we look forward in the near future to having a set of Federal student assistance programs devoted to the goal of equalizing opportunities for all.
The Congress has also recognized the need for a new Federal role in encouraging and facilitating reform and innovation throughout postsecondary education. To this end, I had proposed a National Foundation for Higher Education. While the Congress did not create a new agency to deal with institutional innovation, it has provided the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare with the authority to carry out--on a modest scale--the purposes I had intended for the Foundation. In future years, we may wish to reconsider the need for a statutory foundation for postsecondary education.
One of the act's most constructive features is its establishment--as I had requested---of a National Institute of Education. In proposing the NIE, I expressed the expectation that when fully developed, it would be an important element in the Nation's educational system.
The NIE will be a new research institution within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, with a Presidentially appointed Director and a distinguished national advisory council. A primary purpose of the Institute is the initiation of a serious, systematic national effort to find ways to make educational opportunity truly equal---the study of what is needed, both inside and outside the school, to ensure that our compensatory education efforts will be successful.
In the amendments dealing with the busing of public school children, however, this measure is most obviously deficient. Had these disappointing measures alone come to this office--detached from the higher education reforms--they would have been the subject of an immediate veto.
Some months ago, Congress was called upon to make a joint commitment with the Executive, to resolve the spreading social crisis that has arisen in this Nation as a result of massive court-ordered busing of public school children for the purpose of racial integration. One city after another--South, North, East, and West-has been confronted with court orders requiring an enormous price, not simply in the well-being of the children involved but in educational funds, community tensions, and community division. Because, by and large, these orders have been handed down by Federal courts, the American people looked to the Federal Government for clarification, for guidance, for relief. Congress has provided virtually none.
We asked the Congress to draw up new uniform national desegregation standards for all school districts--South, North, East, and West. The Congress determined to allow the existing inequities and injustices to remain.
We asked the Congress to provide uniform guidance to Federal judges so that court-ordered busing to integrate public school systems would be used only as a last--never a first--resort. The Congress apparently declines to provide such guidance.
We asked the Congress to put a limit on any future court-ordered busing of schoolchildren from kindergarten through the sixth grade. Congress refused to act. As a result future court decisions may treat the kindergarten children in the same fashion as they treat seniors in high school. That is wrong, but the Congress has thus far refused to correct the situation.
We asked the Congress for legislation granting relief for those many school districts already operating under court orders that require busing far in excess of reasonable standards. Congress has thus far provided those dozens of districts with no hope, and no relief.
We asked the Congress for a moratorium-no more Federal court-ordered school busing until such new standards were set up and applied equally to cities South and North. Congress refused-providing instead only a temporary stay, pending appeal, and applied only to a very limited type of court order, and only so long as litigants can manage to keep an appeal alive. It applies only to certain kinds of court orders. An adroit orderdrafter may be able to prevent any effective application of this law. This action by the Congress can be construed, not unfairly, as a breathing spell designed less for the harassed school districts of this country than for Congressmen themselves.
Congress has not given us the answer we requested; it has given us rhetoric. It has not provided a solution to the problem of court-ordered busing; it has provided a clever political evasion. The moratorium it offers is temporary; the relief it provides is illusory.
Confronted with one of the burning social issues of the past decade, and an unequivocal call for action from the vast majority of the American people, the 92d Congress has apparently determined that the better part of valor is to dump the matter into the lap of the 93d. Not in the course of this Administration has there been a more manifest Congressional retreat from an urgent call for responsibility.