Friday, June 29, 2007

SCOTUS 5-4 against race-based school decisions

That's the ruling from the Supreme Court - K-12 public schools can't use race to determine placement. I wouldn't be surprised if businesses and universities start having their I'll be the first to agree that affirmative action is flawed, but this line kills me every time I read it.

The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Oh, if only it were that easy. It's the classic "color-blindness" argument. We're all equal so we must treat each other as equals. I know a good deal of people who'd disagree with that argument. Perhaps some people screwed over by the Racine Unified School District - my home district.

RUSD used to have a policy against segregation that tried to spread out the minority student population in all schools. It stipulated that no school may have a minority population below 10 percent or above 15 percent of the district wide population.

However, they got rid of that because it wasn't really happening. So, now you have hyper-discrimination at schools like Julian Thomas, which has the highest minority rate (82.5% of students) and second highest poverty rate in Racine. Click on Julian Thomas. Note how it has the LOWEST test scores in Racine. Looking at other elementary schools in the area, schools with high rates of economic disadvantaged have the lower test scores.

They were thinking of implementing a version of the desegregation law last year - until they found out that 2/3 of RUSD schools wouldn't meet the standards. Woops.

What really kills me is that almost all comments on the Journal Times were in favor of the ruling. It's not suprising. After looking through the JT blog, I saw this post imploring readers not to leave racist comments.

although the RUSD was featured in an article shrugging off the ruling, Racine School Board Member Brian Dey, voiced his approval for the ruling and vehement opposition to RUSD re-redistricting plans.

One thing caught my eye in his press release, however:

Under the term “socio-economic status”, the district stated it would use this, not race, as the determining factor. “Socio-economic Status” in the district is identical to race, and by stating that race would not be a determining factor, is simply false and discriminatory.

You just shot yourself in the foot there. If race runs along socio-economic lines - in short, minorities are disadvantaged - doesn't that hint at internal discrimination inherent in Racine, if not the country? Adhering to the status-quo is just another way of green lighting discrimination.

Basing these decisions solely on race is a hard case to make, I understand that. It shouldn't be that way, as not every minority is at a disadvantage. However, many are. Many fall into poverty and find it quite hard to climb out. Segregated education only compounds that.

As of right now, Madison Metropolitan School District and the RUSD are planning on continuing on with their own deciding factors - mainly based on factors like poverty. MPS is having more of a struggle, because this would likely pose a threat to Chapter 220, which provides statewide financial support for racial integration in schools.

Chapter 220 may go down in flames. Maybe it should. I say: let school districts try to replace race with socio-economic status. Only use that as a factor in school transfers and busing. When someone tries to attack that as racial discrimination, maybe we'll finally see the institutional racism that lies beneath the state and country.

And maybe we can start to change that. Still, we're a long way off. Wouldn't you agree, Democrats?

1 comment:

Erik Opsal said...

I agree. I had the same problems with the "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race" rationale when Brad mentioned it a few weeks ago.

I posted on it here.