Monday, August 11, 2014
Phil Tegeler, Executive Director of the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, has a new article set to go to print in the Michigan Journal of Law Reform titled The "Compelling Interest" in School Diversity: Rebuilding the Case for an Affirmative Government Role. He convincingly takes the Department of Education, and the Obama Administration overall, to task for its failure to promote integration. The Administration has made supportive statements at times, but when it comes to money and affirmative support, it has done nothing, turning its support to charter schools and other "innovations." The introduction of the article is as follows:
The strong endorsement of the "compelling government interest" in school integration by five members of the Supreme Court in Parents Involved in Community Schools stands in surprising contrast to the Obama Administrations's tepid support for affirmative measures to expand school diversity initiatives. Although the Department of Education formally endorsed the Supreme Court plurality's position on school integration in a 2011 guidance to local districts, its funding programs have not followed suit. Since 2009, spending on magnet schools, the only Department of Education funding program that sponsors school integration, has declined relative to other departmental programs, while funding for charter schools, which are generally even more segregated than regular schools, has expanded.
At the same time, the Department's largest competitive grant programs, "Race to the Top" and "Investing in Innovation," have eschewed any mention of school integration as a goal or priority.
The Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) 2012 annual report illustrates the Department of Education's reluctance to affirmatively promote school integration: "The choice as to whether to pursue diversity and reduce racial isolation lies with educational and civic leaders. OCR is ready to help educational leaders who make this choice." The Department essentially takes the position that it will not intervene to help severely segregated districts except upon request. Yet, the Department generously funds segregated districts and regions, as well as the states that support them, without providing any encouragement or incentive to address these harmful local conditions. This Article will explore the gap between the "compelling government interest" in school integration announced in Parents Involved and the Obama Administrations's education policies. I will argue that the federal government has both the legal authority and the obligation to take a more proactive stance in promoting racial and economic integration in schools.
Tegeler's full article, along with others by john powell, Sheryll Cashin, Michael Rosmin, and Richard Sander, is available here.