Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Investing in Integration: What a Second Year Law Student Knows and the Department of Education Cannot Figure Out

Jennifer Rust, a law student at Loyola University, just published Investing in Integration: A Case for "Promoting Diversity" in Federal Education Funding Priorities, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 623 (2013).  She points out that the Department of Education "first identified school diversity as a priority in granting discretionary federal funding to schools in 2011," but this step "came nearly four years after a majority of the United States Supreme Court declared school integration a 'compelling government interest.'" and only after staunch criticism from civil rights advocates.  Moreover, it is just one of sixteen priorities and not present in all programs.  She then goes on to discuss the Department and "President Obama's rigorous support and funding for charter schools[, which has] catapulted the movement to the forefront of education reform."  

The Department's Race to the Top Fund:

provides over $4.35 billion to eligible schools and awards federal funding to states that lift the cap on the number of charters they allow to operate. However, RTF provides virtually no incentive for charters to promote diversity. Under the current plan, states can win RTF funding without any effort to reduce concentrations of poverty and racial isolation within their schools. RTF is indicative of the failure by the federal government to adequately emphasize the importance of voluntary integration in its programs.

. . .[C]harter schools are uniquely positioned to promote diversity in education, but have fixated on a flawed agenda. By prioritizing high poverty schools over all others, charters have made a failed attempt to overcome the weight of history suggesting that separate schools are not better for anyone.

I was so struck by this law student's ability to capture the Department's error by omission--something not easy to spot--that I asked the usual suspects whether they had played in any role in her work.  Thus far, the answer is no.  Ms. Rust's footnotes indicate she has read several published papers by diversity coalitions and organizations, but came to her idea and conclusion on her own. If only the Department was as observant and considerate.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/education_law/2014/01/investing-in-integration-what-a-second-year-law-school-knows-and-the-department-of-education-cannot-.html

Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink

Comments

I agree with everything in this post, and in the Note it discusses, but it is important to note that just recently the Department of Education reversed course and issued regulatory guidance allowing charter schools to use weighted lotteries to attain diversity. The previous policy denied federal grant funding to any charter schools using weighted lotteries for any purpose. This is a huge step in the right direction.

Posted by: Rob Garda | Jan 31, 2014 2:16:38 PM

Rob,
Thanks for the update, which I should have included myself, although it is disconcerted how hard folks have had to work to get this minor change and how many other programmatic areas still lack this ingredient at DOE.

Posted by: Derek Black | Feb 3, 2014 5:45:54 AM

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