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U.S. Supreme Court Bans Race-Based School Attendance Plans
By David W. Kirkpatrick (July 05, 2007)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us

 
           U.S. Supreme Court Bans Race-Based School Attendance Plans
 
         The U.S. Supreme Court, recently ruled on two cases, from Seattle and Louisville respectively, that race may not be considered in attempts to integrate classrooms.  This is the latest in a long series of 5-4 decisions, currently with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Samual  Alito, Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas on one side and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens on the other with the ninth justice, presently Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, as the swing vote, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other.  Probably still the most controversial such decision was the one after the 2000 presidential election. although with a somewhat different lineup of judges, that resulted in current president George W. Bush attaining his office.
 
         Such cases, particularly regarding social issues, most prominently racial ones, have strongly held views on both sides, which is why they appear in court.  They are also significant ones, which why they are among the relatively few that are accepted by the Court.  Thus, the recent decision is controversial.  Since views on both sides tend to be strongly held, no attempt will be made here in a futile effort  to sway them one way or the other.
 
         But a few related factors might be considered.
 
         First, 5-4 votes.  Much has been said, from at least 2000 to the present about the five majority votes reflecting ideology rather than objective interpretation of the Constitution.  Accept that view for the moment.  Why, then, aren't those supposedly concerned with ideological votes equally vociferous with the consistency of the four votes in the minority.?
 
         It seems reasonable to assume that it isn't the ideology of individual justices that upsets them but that their views lose by a single vote.
 
         A second factor, prominently displayed if reactions to this latest decision, is the "gloom and doom" and "the world is coming to an end" rhetoric of the losers, both on and off the court.
 
         For example, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, in a dissenting opinion, wrote that the Court's decison "threatens to substitute for the present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown's promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality."
 
         Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's racial justice project worries that "The rejection of the Seattle and Louisville school plans represents a significant step backwards in a nation where schools are becoming increasingly segregated by race and ethnicity."
 
         Sad, if true. But are they true?
 
         Consider that Seattle, which never was found guilty of racial discrimination, had already suspended its controversial policy. Superintendent Raj Manhas said the practical impact of the Court's decision was "none."
 
         It is also estimated (since reliable statistics do not exist) that only a few hundred to one thousand (3-7%) of the nation's nearly 15,000 school districts have some form of racial consideration when making student placements.  So, for 14,000+ (93-97%) school districts the effect, as in Seattle, will be zero.
 
         As for turning "back the clock on equality in our schools" more than 50 years after Brown v. Board of Education, one wonders what schools Parker is talking about.  Most black students are in predominantly black schools.  His further comment that "schools are becoming increasingly segregated" reflects on the status quo in the 50+ years since Brown.
 
         Consider:
 
         In April 1990, Teacher Magazine reported that there were nonwhite majorities in every one of the nation's 25 largest school districts
 
         In March 1991 Linda Morrison, in a paper for Pennsylvania's Commonwealth Foundation, said "Racial Discrimination is a bigger problem in public schools than in private schools."  Today the exceptions might also include public schools of choice, such as charter schools and states with statewide open enrollment.
 
         Those views are not outdated.  In April 2002, School Reform News ran a Kelly Amis article entitled, "Despite 50-Year Effort, Schools Become More Segregated."
 
         The middle class flight from many cities has long been noted.  It has even been said of such situations that the cities are being destroyed by their schools.  But what it destroying the schools?
 
         How about compulsory schools from which millions can only escape by fleeing?

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         Schools of choice "may be better integrated than public schools because they depend less on racially segregated housing patterns for selecting their student body.  Public schools tend to replicate and reinforce racial segregation in housing." p. 22, Jay Greene, & Nicole Mellow, "Integration Where It Counts," Texas Education Review, Spring 2000

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Copyright 2007 David W. Kirkpatrick
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