June 5, 2006

Anutter Grutter Cutter?

Hatched by Dafydd

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has at least a good possibility of reversing what was arguably the worst Supreme-Court decision of the Bush era... a position that was ardently supported by the Bush administration itself.

The Supreme Court agreed today to consider an issue of enormous importance to parents and educators across the country: the extent to which public school administrators can use racial factors in assigning children to schools.

The court accepted cases from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., for its next term. The school districts in both cities defeated challenges to their assignment procedures in the lower courts.

"Looming in the background of this is the constitutionality of affirmative action," Davison Douglas, a law professor at William and Mary, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "This is huge."

The earlier case to which I alluded was Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), in which the Court held that the "affirmative-action" (racial preferences) in the University of Michigan's law school were constitutional. And the reason I think there's a reasonable chance to chip away at that awful decision is that it was 5-4... with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writing for the majority.

O'Connor has since retired, of course, replaced by Justice Samuel A. Alito: if Alito actually opposes racial preferences, as I suspect he does, then he could be the crucial flip-vote that might begin wrenching the country towards racial sanity.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist died in the meanwhile and was replaced by Chief Justice John Roberts; but Rehnquist was in the minority in this case. So assuming that Roberts is as opposed to "affirmative action" as Rehnquist was, this will result in no change. But the O'Connor retirement could lead to racial preferences moving from a 5-4 win to a 5-4 loss.

Seattle school administrators have wrestled for decades with the de facto segregation that tends to mirror the housing patterns of white, black and Asian families in the community. Students can pick among high schools. But since some schools have more applicants than they can handle, the district relies on tie-breakers, including whether a sibling attends a certain school, distance from a prospective student's home and race, to decide who gets into the over-subscribed schools. A group called Parents Involved in Community Schools sued in 2000, contending that it was unfair for the school district to consider race.

There are two cases here, and it could end up with another split decision (like Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger -- the latter involving U of M's undergraduate admissions, where the Court struck down racial preferences). The problem is that in the Kentucky case, there is an existing federal judicial order to desegregate:

The Kentucky case arises from a suit filed by Crystal Meredith, who contends that her son Joshua was not allowed into the neighborhood school because he is white. The Jefferson County school district has a history different from Seattle's, in that the Louisville schools operated for years under a federal order to desegregate. In 2001, the district began using a plan that includes racial guidelines. The plan was upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

I have always argued that the way to combat official segregation is by the complete lack of segregation... not by segregating in the other direction. It's as unfair to the white Joshua Meredith that he's kept out a good school because he's white as it was to black kids during Jim Crow to be kept out of good schools because they weren't white.

But we'll see how the Court sees it. Keep your eyes on the prize....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 5, 2006, at the time of 5:54 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Big D


Look, the problem of desegregation grew out of uneven funding for minority schools. It was felt that minority schools were getting the shaft, and they were. By taking the children of rich whites hostage and forcing them to attend minority schools, it was thought the later would benefit. Instead it meant that many rich white children were withdrawn from the pubic schools. Also that ill prepared and disruptive minority students brought down the good schools. Mediocrity reigned.

What people didn't get was that the performance of a student is related to the performance of the family, not the color of their skin. Why do Asian immigrants commonly outperform African Americans students? Because education was more important to the family of one, and not the other.

Of course the real solutions would have been vouchers. Then students whose parents care could have made improvements. Or perhaps school testing to identify children at risk early and get them special help. Solutions opposed by the left with all their strength.

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 6, 2006 9:58 AM

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