School Integration in the LES, 1963


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October 17, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 52

Whites, Negroes Balk [at] School-Shifting Plan

By Dan Balaban

Some 700 people jammed into the 500-seat auditorium of P.S. 140 at Rivington and Ridge Streets last week to discuss integrated education based on a “Princeton Plan.” The schools involved are on the Lower East Side, P.S. 110 and P.S. 97. The meeting, convoked by the Local School Board of Districts 1,2,3 and 4, was lively, bordering at times on riot, and the deafening sound of axes being ground tended to obscure consideration of the merits of the plan itself.

This Princeton Plan — proposed for 1964 as part of an over-all plan drawn up by Mrs. Florence Becker, Assistant Superintendent of Schools in charge of districts 1-4, for the educational integration of her area — would combine the children served by P.S. 110 and 97, with, for example, grades three and four taught at one school and grades five and six at the other. About 25 speakers addressed the assembly on this plan and on related and unrelated issues. A rough tally showed about two-thirds of voiced opinion — both Negro and white — against the plan.

Of the more cogent speakers, some felt that the Princeton Plan served little purpose in an area where the schools were already integrated (recent figures put Negroes and Puerto Ricans at 41.5 per cent of the P.S. 110 population and at 83.6 per cent of P.S. 97’s) and that the Board of Education would promote the cause of integration better by raising the general level of instruction than by juggling quotas about.

“Most of our problems stem from the fact that very few of our elected officials have children going to public schools,” said Mrs. A. Rockitter, a P.S. 110 parent. “That’s why the educational budget is always shortchanged.”

Hal Coppersmith, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, added that “the principals and the superintendents and the Board of Education don’t ask for the budget needed to improve the schools.”

Other speakers felt the answer lay in breaking down discrimination in housing, “not in bussing children around.”

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