President Biden blocked a key policy for segregating schools in 1972.
Throughout the 1970s, then-Senator Joe Biden voted for several policies to prevent busing in public schools.
New York magazine notes that Biden has a "problematic" past and was responsible for blocking a key segregation policy. In 1972, the Supreme Court said that policymakers should be involved in a conscious effort to encourage more white children to attend schools in predominantly black areas, and visa versa, as an effective means of ending segregation.
To appeal to constituents, Biden claimed that busing was unnecessary in Northern states. Biden voted for several anti-busing policies and partnered with late Republican senator Jesse Helms, who vehemently opposed segregation policies. Biden also voted to prevent the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from collecting data on schools' racial makeup, a move that the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) described as an "anti-black amendment."
In 1975, Biden represented a state where the first court-ordered segregation plans took place. This had apparently angered several white parents in Wilmington. In response, Biden sponsored a bill limiting courts' powers and an amendment to the appropriations bill that barred withholding funding from schools that had remained segregated. Fourteen other Northern Democrats supported the bill.
In 1977, he co-authored a bill that barred federal courts from ordering busing plans unless courts found evidence of discriminatory intent. That legislation failed.
Biden addressed the policies in an interview with Rev. Al Sharpton on MSBNC. He said: “You got to deal with what’s in front of you and what was in front of you was a bunch of racists and we had to defeat them.” His former spokesperson Bill Russo had also confirmed that Biden had always thought that busing was an ineffective way of integrating schools.
Biden said that to improve gaps in schools' achievements, legislators should aim to improve education for everyone rather than implement busing policies. Campaigners argued that attainment gaps had not narrowed and that busing had been proven to narrow attainment gaps.
It is true that Biden voted against segregation and busing policies on several occasions and did not believe that they were an effective way of achieving racial equality in schools.