Friday, February 27, 2015
This week, the parties in Sheff v. O'Neill reached an agreement to expand the state's inter-district integration remedy. An additional one thousand seats will become available in Hartford's magnet school program, for which students from the suburbs may apply. An extra 325 seats will also become available in the suburban districts for Hartford city students to fill. This extended and expanded remedy flows from the Connecticut Supreme Court's seminal decision in 1996 in Sheff, holding that the extreme racial isolation in Hartford's schools, and the state-drawn district lines that locked those students in, deprived the students of the state constitution's guarantee of equal educational opportunity. This inter-district program is the one the New York Times has been referencing in recent weeks as a model for New York to consider in addressing its own extreme segregation.
The Sheff Movement coalition is organizing two briefings this coming Monday. It offers this primer:
The Sheff school integration plan is one of the best things happening in Connecticut right now. Tens of thousands of children are benefiting and many more could benefit if the state took a more ambitious approach. The Sheff Movement coalition is disappointed at the slow progress represented by this one-year plan - but we are encouraged that the parties are committed to a new mediation process to set long term goals. We hope the governor can bring the same kind of ambitious vision to quality integrated education as he has shown in his plans for the state's transportation future.
We acknowledge that the state has committed to fund new capital investment in three Hartford Magnet Schools, and we hope that this work can begin soon. We are also pleased to see that some of the Sheff Movement coalition's priorities are reflected in the agreement, including: 1) an increase in Hartford resident enrollment in a number of the magnet schools, and 2) an agreement to explore future enrollment priorities for English Language Learners, children with special education needs, and children who have applied unsuccessfully for magnet schools or Open Choice in the past.
In sum, we can expect another year of slow progress toward the goal of quality integrated education for all children. We hope the Governor, the Sheff plaintiffs, and the City will find the resolve and the funds to expand these successful programs significantly in their negotiations later this year. The future of our region and state depend on it.
The coalition invites interested parties to join in a 1-hour conference call briefing on Monday, 3/2, at either 4:30pm or 8:00pm. Register here.
Download a copy of the settlement agreement here.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Two weeks ago, I commented on the significance of the New York Times editorial board's willingness to take a position on school integration. Two weeks later, the board is still pressing its case and making new important arguments. On Sunday, it again called out the state for its segregation and indicated it need look no further than Connecticut for solutions.
The fact that New York has the most segregated public schools in the nation does not bode well for the state’s future. It is a disaster for poor and minority children, who are disproportionately trapped in schools that will not prepare them for the new economy. And it is harming children of all races and economic levels who are in demographically homogeneous schools that do not reflect society or expose them to fresh perspectives.
New York’s political leaders need not look far for ideas. Connecticut has a desegregation program that has revitalized the once-dismal school system in Hartford. Created in response to a 1996 State Supreme Court ruling, it has relied on a voluntary school transfer plan and a vibrant system of magnet schools to improve opportunities for inner-city children and draw suburban families back to a city that was considered an educational dead zone.
They then point to the success of that program:
Racial isolation was the norm when the suit was first filed. Recent data show that 47.5 percent of Hartford children now attend integrated schools — defined under the Sheff agreement as schools in which fewer than three-fourths of the children are members of minority groups. This means that more than half of city students are still confined to segregated, often low-quality schools. But the agreement has shown many parents what public schooling can be and is creating demand for reform of the schools left behind.
The Hartford experience shows that it is possible to fight racial isolation and improve education at the same time.
The full editorial is here.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Suzanna E. Eckes, Aaron N. Butler, and Natasha M. Wilson's article, Brown v. Board of Education's 60th Anniversary: Still No Cause For a Celebration, 311 Ed. Law Rep. 1 (Jan. 15, 2015), is now on westlaw. The article discusses how far the United States has come in integrating students and how far it has have left to go to achieve the goal of Brown v. Board. The article begins by presenting a history of "civil rights legislation, constitutional protections, and Supreme Court decisions related to racial integration." Next, the authors turn to more recent court decisions signifying the end, or at least the slowing, of integration in schools. The last two sections discuss other types of segregation and the importance of broad diversity in public schools.
Regarding other types of segregation, the authors cite to cases in which schools had segregated students based on "gender, ability, language, religion, and sexual orientation." Since the 2006 amendments to the Title IX regulations "mak[ing] public single-sex educational programs more accessible in public school[,]" the number of single-sex classrooms and schools has been on the rise. As compared to only three single-sex public education programs in 1995, "[t]oday there are approximately 500 schools in 40 states that offer single-sex classes and 90 single-sex public schools in the U.S." In addition to the spread of single-sex schools across the country, public schools have opened to cater to LGBT students. "These schools are designed to serve as safe havens for LGBT students who have been bullied or harassed in their traditional public schools." However, some have argued that, while sparing LGBT students hurtful and damaging harassment, these separate schools may result in unnecessary segregation.
Finally, some school systems also separate students based on disabilities. An investigation conducted by the Office of Civil Rights recently found that one New Jersey school district had placed over 60% of its students with disabilities into "self-contained classrooms." And these instances of segregation are not limited to traditional public schools. Charter school and voucher programs face similar challenges, from "enthocentric or culturally-oriented niche charter schools" leading to greater racial segregation, to private/religious voucher-receiving schools discriminating against LGBT students, students with disabilities, or religious minorities. The authors conclude by presenting evidence of the harms segregation can cause and the need for integration in schools.
Monday, January 26, 2015
Yesterday, the Washington Post ran Jay Mathews' commentary on changes in neighborhood schooling. As the National Center for Education Statistics' chart shows below, the percentage of students attending a public school of choice has risen significantly since the 1990s. Based on his personal experience, which he allows is biased, Mathews laments the decline in neighborhood schooling. However, he notes that technology and other modern innovations make neighborhood schools less important than in prior eras. He ultimately suggests the change may be a good thing.
|Percentage distribution of students in grades 1–12, by type of school: 1993, 2003, and 2007|
Type of school
|Private, not church-related||1.6||2.4||2.6|
Mathews' commentary, however, ignores the more important issues involved in neighborhood schools: racial and socio-economic politics and equality. Mathews largely equates "assigned" school with "neighborhood" school and "chosen" school with "non-neighborhood. Neither is necessarily true. Districts operating voluntary desegregation plans often incorporate some form of choice, but the school a parent chooses is not necessarily non-neighborhood. The student assignment plan in Louisville that went to the Supreme Court in Parents Involved v. Seattle, for instance, drew larger neighborhood attendance zones and allowed parents the opportunity to choose among neighborhood schools. Sometimes that was the school closest to a family, sometimes not. As a general principle, choice plans fall into two categories: those designed to foster integration and those designed to allow parents to escape integration.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
I doubt it, but Friday the New York Times Editorial Board decried the segregation in the state, citing it as the nation's worst. This, of course, is not news to most readers of this blog. Back in March I posted on the Civil Rights Project's new report labeling New York as such. And the Times itself has published various editorials over the past few years by the likes of Gary Orfield and john powell. It has also done a few background stories. But I cannot recall the Editorial Board taking an affirmative stance on integration itself. Such a stance is important, and comes on the heels of an announcement the previous week by New York that it would offer pilot program grants to school districts seeking to promote socioeconomic integration in schools. Let us hope that the pendulum is beginning to swing. The full oped is here.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Since the protests in Ferguson, Missouri first began, I have been burdened by the thought that it warranted discussion here, but never found a way to comment appropriately. To comment here seemed opportunistic or too tangential to the issues within the normal scope of this blog. Two weeks ago, the ACLU made a connection or, at least, decided to focus on the education issues in the local school district.
A new ACLU lawsuit challenges the school leadership in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, arguing that the white dominated school board and the electoral process that produces it are in violation of the Voting Rights Act. “African-American students accounted for 77.1% of total enrollment in the 2011-2012 school year,” but only one of seven school board members are African American. The press release explains:
"The current [voting] system locks out African-American voters. It dilutes the voting power of the African-American community and severely undermines their voice in the political process," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.
The Ferguson-Florissant School District has a history fraught with discrimination against African-American citizens. The district, which spans several municipalities, was created by a 1975 desegregation order intended to remedy the effects of discrimination against African-American students. Yet, 40 years later, there is just one African-American member on the seven-member board in a district where African-Americans constitute 77 percent of the student body.
Plaintiffs attribute the District's “significant racial disparities in terms of enrollment in gifted programs, access to advanced classes, assignment to special education programs, and school discipline” to the racially inequitable political process.
Friday, December 5, 2014
Two years after the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) ended its old Mexican-American Studies (MAS) curriculum, the district continues to be pulled between Arizona politicians’ disapproval of ethnic studies classes and TUSD’s efforts to show remedial progress in the federal desegregation case brought against the district in 1974. Arizona education officials increased the pressure on TUSD this Tuesday making a surprise visit to an ethnic studies class to determine if the district is violating a state law that prohibits any class that promotes “the overthrow of the United States government,” racial resentment, and “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals” (HB 2281). After HB 2281 was passed and the state threatened to withhold ten percent of the district's funding, TUSD closed down the MAS program in 2012. TUSD’s school board subsequently began offering ethnic studies courses after a federal court ordered the district to develop a culturally responsive curriculum as a part of its remedial action in Fisher and Mendoza v. TUSD, the federal court desegregation case.
The state officials’ compliance visit was reportedly prompted by comments that a TUSD high school principal made at the National Association of Multicultural Educators that the district was once again offering culturally responsive classes. The Arizona education department wrote TUSD in late November, asking the district to turn over all assessments, assignments, lesson plans, student work, and materials used in classes that have a “culturally relevant” focus.
Coincidentally, the officials’ visit comes on the heels of a new study linking the MAS program to higher student achievement. The study, Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for All the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson, links the defunct MAS program with increased graduation rates and standardized-testing results for students who participated in the program from 2006 to April 2012. The study by Nolan L. Cabrera, Jeffrey F. Milem, Ozan Jaquette, and Ronald W. Marx (Arizona) is available in the American Educational Research Journal here.
Meanwhile, Arizona seeks to intervene in the desegregation case in Fisher, arguing that the state has an interest in ensuring that TUSD’s current ethnic studies classes do not “foster resegregation along ethnic and racial lines.” A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard Arizona’s request to intervene in Fisher this November. Counsel for the Department of Justice opposes Arizona’s intervention, arguing to the Ninth Circuit panel that “Arizona has no ‘protectable interest in this suit’” because the MAS program was ended. The video of Arizona’s oral argument before the Ninth Circuit in November is here. The Ninth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the main case in January.
The Poverty and Race Research Action Council noted yesterday in its weekly update that
The Department of Education continues to take small but important steps toward embracing school diversity as a department-wide priority - most recently in its proposed priorities for charter school funding programs, which will add a school diversity priority to some of its future charter funding rounds, and which notes that "a critical component of serving all students, including educationally disadvantaged students, is consideration of student body diversity, including racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. This proposed regulatory action encourages broad consideration of student body composition, consistent with applicable law, as charter schools are authorized and funded and as best practices are disseminated." 79 Fed. Reg. 68821 (November 19, 2014)
Thursday, December 4, 2014
ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society File Segregation Complaint Against Delaware Charters, Call for Moratorium
Yesterday, the ACLU of Delaware, ACLU Racial Justice Project and Community Legal Aid Society filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights asserting that Delaware’s charter school policies discriminate against students of color and students with disabilities. They also perpetuate segregation. “We hope that the Office of Civil Rights recognizes that any system of selection that has the effect of almost completely excluding children with disabilities from the ‘high-achieving’ charter schools is deeply disturbing and must constitute illegal discrimination,” says Dan Atkins, Legal Advocacy Director of the Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
The complaint asserts that "over three-quarters of charter schools operating in Delaware are racially identifiable. High performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as White. Low income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African American or Hispanic, none of which are high performing." They assert charter schools are also increasing segregation in traditional public schools.
They ask for the following solutions to the problem:
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Forbes magazine commissioned a study of the cost and benefits of the five big ideas for reforming education. The five big ideas will cost $6.2 trillion over 20 years and produce $225 trillion in additional gross domestic product. So what is the plan? Universal pre-k, teacher efficacy (attract, retain, and measure good teachers), school leadership (raise their salaries and give them the power to act like any other division head, including hiring and firing), blended learning (delivering rote information through technology and relying on teachers for value added instruction, which requires increasing computer and internet access), and common core curriculum.
Reduced to those headlines, it sounds simple. Reduced to the impressive financial spreadsheet, it sounds like a no brainer. To make sure, Forbes convened the top leaders from the four key constituent groups to ask whether the five big ideas are doable. The leaders were Arne Duncan, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Randi Weingarten, and D.C. public schools chancellor Kaya Henderson. They generally agree that the plan is doable.
Monday, November 24, 2014
This from the Economic Policy Institute:
On Friday, December 5, at 10:00 a.m. ET, the Economic Policy Institute will host a debate between noted scholars on affirmative action in American higher education, featuring Georgetown University Law Professor Sheryll Cashin and Richard Rothstein, a research associate at EPI. They will be joined by American University Law Professor Lia Epperson, and Catharine Bond Hill, president of Vassar College.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Yesterday, a group called Students for Fair Representation filed lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, alleging that the universities' consideration of race in admissions violates Title VI and Equal Protection (in North Carolina complaint). The complaints are highly charged in tone, allegation, and legal analysis. They remind one more of the sort of allegations one would have found in lawsuits challenging racial discrimination and segregation during the 1960s and 1970s. This comparison is neither to disparage nor to validate the complaints, but merely to highlight the raw emotion and sense of injustice that the current complaints convey on behalf of the clients (or attorneys), which is noteworthy in and of itself.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Last year, the district court in Maryland found the state's higher education system in violation of longstanding desegregation precedent. The state had duplicated several programs in the state that had led to the further racial stratification and segregation in the system. See here for me earlier post on the case.
The National Bar Association is sponsoring a panel on the continuing developments and issues in the case this Friday. Participants include Jay Augustine, Adjunct Professor, Southern University Law Center; John Brittain, Professor of Law, David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia; Dr. Ronald Mason, President, Southern University System, and Danielle R. Holley-Walker, Dean & Professor of Law, Howard University School of Law. Southern University Law Center is hosting the discussion. Contact Professor Tracie Woods, firstname.lastname@example.org (225) 771-4680, for more information.
Thanks to John Brittain for allerting me to Sandra Jowers-Barber's, The Struggle to Educate Black Deaf Schoolchildren in Washington, D.C. , and the important history and decision that allowed deaf African American students to receive special education in Washington, DC without having to travel out of state because the school district maintained a racially segregated school system without even a separate education for the deaf.
Monday, October 6, 2014
R. L'Heureux Lewis McCoy's new book, Inequality in the Promised Land: Race, Resources, and Surburban Schooling, explores the working of segregation and inequality at the classroom level. The book description states:
Nestled in neighborhoods of varying degrees of affluence, suburban public schools are typically better resourced than their inner-city peers and known for their extracurricular offerings and college preparatory programs. Despite the glowing opportunities that many families associate with suburban schooling, accessing a district's resources is not always straightforward, particularly for black and poorer families. Moving beyond class- and race-based explanations, Inequality in the Promised Land focuses on the everyday interactions between parents, students, teachers, and school administrators in order to understand why resources seldom trickle down to a district's racial and economic minorities.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
For those who have not seen it, I highly recommend Daniel Kiel's documentary, The Memphis 13, which explores the integration of Memphis schools through the voices of those who did it. The film is now available for streaming online and includes a curriculum. Below is his announcement:
This week marks the anniversary of the historic steps of the Memphis 13, the first students to desegregate schools in Memphis. Thank you so much for your interest in and support for The Memphis 13 documentary in the past. Since the film premiered three years ago on the 50th anniversary of that historic first day of school, this documentary has been shared in film festivals, universities, classrooms, and communities across the country. Most recently, the film was featured in Teaching Tolerance magazine, and now, the opportunity to share the film with the world has been significantly expanded.
Monday, August 25, 2014
For the past three decades, desegregation litigation regarding the Little Rock Arkansas School District and surrounding districts has made its way through the federal courts. In 2011, the districts in North Little Rock and Pulaski petitioned for unitary status and sought to dissolve the interdistrict desegregation plan in place. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, 2011 WL 1935332, granted the petitions in part, but on appeal in Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. Arkansas, 664 F.3d 738 (2011), the Eighth Circuit reversed, finding significant continuing vestiges of segregation and holding that the State of Arkansas had a continuing obligation to fund the interdistrict desegregation plan. Last week, on remand, the district court approved a settlement agreement between the parties by which the state of Arkansas is no longer a party to the case.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Education Law Center Calls on New Jersey to Assess Effect of Charters on Segregation and School Funding
The following is a repost of an Eduction Law Center press release:
In comments filed today, Education Law Center is calling on the NJ Department of Education (DOE) to issue rules requiring the State Education Commissioner to assess the impact of NJ charter schools on both student segregation and local school district budgets.
"The New Jersey Supreme Court has made clear the Commissioner's obligation to assess whether a proposed or operating charter school is causing student segregation or depriving district schools of necessary funding, both of which would violate the right of district students to a thorough and efficient education under our State Constitution, " said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.
"The State's failure to properly codify this obligation in the rules governing New Jersey's charter school program is a violation of constitutional law," Mr. Sciarra added.
In several rulings, most recently in December 2013, the NJ Supreme Court firmly established the responsibility of the State Commissioner to determine whether a proposed charter school would exacerbate racial segregation and/or deprive students in district-run schools of essential funding.
Erika Wilson's new article, Toward A Theory of Equitable Federated Regionalism in Public Education, 61 UCLA L. Rev. 1416 (2014), is now available on westlaw. It is sure to catch the attention in future scholars, hopefully policy makers as well. Her abstract offers this summary:
School quality and resources vary dramatically across school district boundary lines. Students who live mere miles apart have access to disparate educational opportunities based on which side of a school district boundary line their home is located. Owing in large part to metropolitan fragmentation, most school districts and the larger localities in which they are situated are segregated by race and class. Further, because of a strong ideological preference for localism in public education, local government law structures in most states do not require or even encourage collaboration between school districts in order to address disparities between them. As a result, the combination of metropolitan fragmentation and localism in public education leads to the exclusion of poor and minority students from access to high-quality school districts, which are largely clustered in more affluent and predominately white localities.