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Desegregation

No, U.S. Schools Aren’t “Resegregating”

The front-page headline on the Washington Post last week screamed, “New Data Shows U.S. schools Are Resegregating.” 

Not true. Segregation means the government separating students by race and telling them it is illegal for students of one race to attend the same schools as students of another race. So the number of segregated public schools in the United States today is . . . zero.

What is being complained about, instead, are racial “imbalances” that come about, not as a result of racist laws, but because of residential living patterns and the general practice of assigning children to schools that are near where they live. Deliberately assigning children to schools on the basis of skin color — which, ironically, is what the Left wants in order to correct these “imbalances” — is bad policy and illegal, in light of not only Brown v. Board of Education but, more recently, the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Parents Involved in Community Schools v.  Seattle School District No. 1

Assigning students on the basis of skin color can hurt minority students as well as nonminority students. As the GAO study that the Post story discusses notes, “Further, according to officials, some magnets with openings could not accept minority students because doing so would interfere with the ratio of minority to non-minority students that the district was trying to achieve.” And as I noted in last week’s email, St. Louis-area public school system was recently sued for refusing to admit a black student because, well, he was black, and that would have interfered with the politically correct racial mix being sought.

There’s more: The Post article also mixes poverty into the equation, but of course here again the fact that rich children live in different neighborhoods than poor children, and therefore are likely to attend different schools, is a very different phenomenon than Jim Crow segregation. And defining “resegregation” can be tricky, especially when there are more than two ethnic groups involved and where the number of white students relative to nonwhites is declining anyhow, as the Post story acknowledges. 

It is true that some public schools are better than others, and that the schools that rich kids go to will often be better than the schools that poor kids go to, and there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve all schools. What’s even better is giving parents more choice in where to send their children, though of course this is less popular with the Left, because it is unpopular with teachers’ unions. 

In any event, there is no reason to use the racial makeup of a school as a proxy for whether it is a good school or a bad school.  In fact, that would be racist, wouldn’t it?

P.S.  To make matters worse, this “resegregation” non-problem is being used to justify a bad bill that has just been introduced in Congress:  one that would make it easier for plaintiffs to bring dubious “disparate impact” lawsuits against anyone who gets federal money and isn’t getting their racial numbers“right.” 

Read about this bad bill here.

Asian American Groups File Discrimination Complaints -- A number of Asian American groups are filing a complaint this week against Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale for admissions discrimination.  

You can read the complaint here.

Of course, it is not really a matter of dispute that whites and Asian Americans are discriminated against vis-a-vis “underrepresented minorities” (that is, blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans). That much is admitted by the schools themselves. 

The question is whether the politically correct discrimination is so ham-handed that it violates the constraints the Supreme Court has put on it, and whether the discrimination against Asian Americans is likewise vis-a-vis whites, which remains politically incorrect. Still, the complaint is welcome, especially as we continue to await the Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, which one hopes will put still more constraints on all racial discrimination in university admissions.

Speaking of which …

“Quotas Must Mean Lower Standards” -- So says the chancellor of Oxford.  Glad we’ve got that settled.  Although some approaches lower standards even more than simple racial quotas …

Criminals on Campus -- The Obama administration is encouraging universities to admit more criminals, and of course the soft-on-crime, pro-quota New York Times thinks this is a swell idea. 

Now, I’m sure that there are some people with criminal records who ought to be admitted to schools, and some who should not. I’m also sure (1) that the decision is one for schools to make, not the federal government, and (2) that the decision should not be driven by the racial makeup of who gets in and who doesn’t, which naturally is what the Obama administration’s “(“disparate impact”) focus is.

Finally, and also speaking of felons, last week I participated in a debate sponsored by the National Constitution Center on the recent decision by Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe to reenfranchise over 200,000 felons.  You can listen to the debate here.  I was also interviewed about the issue on National Public Radio and for Australian television (there’s a brief clip of me at about the two-minute mark here).

Ignore claims of resegregation

On May 17, we will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. And that is certainly something worth celebrating.

The only fly in the ointment is that this event will also prompt many solemn pronouncements that, alas, our schools are just as segregated as ever and/or that they are resegregating. We will be told that therefore the promise of Brown remains unfulfilled, and that this is the reason for continuing racial disparities in education.

But this is not true.

Here's the key statistic that must always be borne in mind: The number of segregated (or resegregated) public schools in the United States in 2014 is ... zero.

Segregation means sending children to separate schools because of their race; it does not mean a failure to have socially engineered racial balance. So we can celebrate, unreservedly, the fact that we no longer have racial segregation in our public schools.

Tavis Smiley: Still separate, still unequal

It is true that there are educational disparities across racial and ethnic lines, but racial imbalances in classrooms have little if anything to do with this. It is not necessary for there to be a certain number of white children in a classroom in order for black children to learn.

As Justice Clarence Thomas once wrote, "It never ceases to amaze me that courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominately black must be inferior." Some intellectuals and academics, unfortunately, are even quicker than the courts to jump to this conclusion.

Indeed and ironically, the real reasons for existing racial disparities are generally left unaddressed by the same well-meaning people who complain about "resegregation."

When you think about it, a child's environment has three major components – parents, schools and peers – and in all three respects African American children, in particular, face more hurdles. That is, they are more likely to grow up in single-parent homes, go to a substandard school and have peers who are, to put it mildly, unsupportive of academic achievement.

It may be politically incorrect, but we must acknowledge that out-of-wedlock births are a bad thing and that anti-"acting white" peer pressure exists. And while liberal groups will admit that substandard schools are a problem, they will also resist (partly because of recalcitrant teacher unions ) the most promising reforms -- involving competition among schools, merit pay for teachers and more choice for parents and children -- in favor of just throwing more money at the problem. But lack of money is not the problem, any more than lack of racial balance is.

The only way to achieve the politically correct balance that some misguidedly demand is not by ignoring students' skin color, but by using it to sort, assign and bus them. This is flatly at odds with Brown, which prohibited race-based assignments of students.

And it's not even true that there is a declining lack of racial balance. Sometimes an "Index of Exposure" has been used to bolster that claim, but this is a flawed measure, as explained by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom in their 2003 classic No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning. The Thernstroms conclude that "minority students are not becoming more racially isolated; white students typically attend schools that are much more racially and ethnically diverse than 30 years ago, and the modest decline in the exposure of black and Hispanic children to whites is solely due to the declining share of white children in the school age population."

There is also good reason to be skeptical, as Justice Thomas warned, of the claim that more racial-balance means better education. To quote two other leading experts in this area, David Armor and Christine Rossell, "there is not a single example in the published literature of a comprehensive racial balance plan that has improved black achievement or that has reduced the black-white achievement gap significantly."

Bottom line: Let's celebrate the anniversary of Brown. And let's forget about racial bean-counting and, instead, focus on improving our schools, regardless of their racial makeup.

Discrimination Is Not the Issue

Fifty years after the passage of civil rights laws outlawing discrimination based on race, ethnicity and sex, blacks, Hispanics and women still earn less than white men. In many circles, this fact alone reinforces the belief that discrimination is widespread and only greater government intervention will solve the problem.

Brown v. Board of Education …

Here’s the essay I just did this for National Review Online’s “Education Week”:

It’s depressing that, nearly six decades after Brown v. Board of Education, the legality and morality of racial discrimination in education continues to be a contested issue.

Consider: Last month the Obama administration issued “guidance” for universities on the meaning of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Fisher v. University of Texas. The guidance predictably reiterates that the administration “strongly support[s] diversity” — including, of course, using discrimination in order to achieve it — but, as a legal matter, this is irrelevant if a school is sued, because whether in a particular case there are educational benefits stemming from such diversity is an educational judgment, not a political one.

The fact is that this “guidance” is designed not to help schools follow the law, but to push them to adopt dubious race-based policies that the Supreme Court has warned against and that have prompted lawsuits in the past, but that the Obama administration and its political allies stubbornly support. The whole tone of the new guidance is to offer encouragement to schools that want to engage in racial discrimination: The administration promises that it “will continue to be a resource” for such schools. It is as if the FBI offered eager encouragement to state and local police that wanted to engage in racial profiling without violating the law.

What’s worse, though, is that the guidance is probably telling many schools just what they want to hear: Study after study by the Center for Equal Opportunity has shown that universities across the country are only too happy to weigh race very heavily indeed in their admissions.

But, if they (and their lawyers) read the Fisher decision honestly, it ought to make them gulp and reconsider such discriminatory policies. And I should add that, in the run-up to the ruling, it became clear how increasingly unpopular and discredited racial preferences in admissions are, even among liberals who had once supported them. This ought to prompt some serious soul-searching among university presidents on whether “diversity” is really worth the price of racial discrimination.

In Fisher, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, before race can be used in university admissions, a university must give “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives” to achieving the goals that are purportedly being achieved by weighing race in admissions decisions. The high court said that the lower court, on remand, “must assess whether the university has offered sufficient evidence that would prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity.”

The Court also said that there must be “a careful judicial inquiry into whether a university could achieve sufficient diversity without using racial classifications.” And: “The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” A nondiscriminatory approach must be used if it “could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense.”

There is certainly enough in this language to justify an aggressive and thorough challenge to universities’ use of race in admissions, and so they should expect as much. Universities must now be able to document their consideration of alternatives to weighing race, including any reason for not adopting such alternatives.

A particular example would be documentation of how the educational benefits of considering race in admissions would be greater than the educational benefits of considering other, nonracial factors instead. How is education improved by using race, exactly — and how much, exactly, are those benefits of “diversity” enhanced by considering race in admissions, rather than nonracial characteristics that provide actual diversity in backgrounds, such as income or parents’ professions/educational level or geography or age or work experience or whatever? If a nonracial admissions system would achieve similar benefits and with fewer costs, then the consideration of race cannot be said to have been narrowly tailored to the achievement of those benefits.

More fundamentally, schools must now be able to document why and how race is considered in student admissions and must periodically review and rejustify those considerations. And they must be able to document not only (a) the anticipated benefits but also (b) the possible costs associated with the consideration of race in student admissions at the university — and especially, with regard to the latter, the relative academic performance of members of groups that have received such favorable consideration: That is, they must address the “mismatch” problem of “preferred” minorities being set up for academic underachievement or failure by being admitted into schools where their academic qualifications are significantly below those of the rest of their classmates.

As the Fisher litigation continues, meanwhile, Texans should ask the University of Texas’s president, Bill Powers, “Mr. Powers, just how much of the taxpayers’ money from the people of Texas are you willing to spend in litigation to justify your school’s racial discrimination against wrongly colored Texans?” The predicted expense is now above $1 million.

Three other quick points:

1. Litigation expenses and bad policy aside, the amounts spent — that is, wasted — on these diversity programs is appalling, as Manhattan Institute fellow and NRO contributor Heather Mac Donald has documented.

2. As legally and morally dubious as racial preferences are in student admissions, they are even less defensible in faculty hiring and promotion — yet they are equally ubiquitous, with the added problem that here sex rears its ugly head as well. A recent lawsuit filed by a white male administrator against the University of Florida is a good wakeup call for university officials, many of whom seem to think that, if race can be considered in student admissions, it can therefore also be considered in employment decisions. This is just not true. The statutes and the law are different in the two areas, and there is no plausible legal justification for universities to weigh race in making employment decisions in 2013. Here’s a recent discussion of why universities have no legal justification for racial/ethnic/gender preferences in employment.

3. A word with regard to K-12 education: It is appalling that the Justice Department is trying to use old school-desegregation orders to block Louisiana’s school-voucher program (as John Fund discussed in the NRO piece that really broke this story). But, as I wrote more than a decade ago, the underlying problem is often that school districts — for shortsighted political reasons — have been too complacent in leaving these old orders in place, and so they must bear some of the blame. There are still a couple of hundred of these court orders out there, and school districts — and federal judges, on their own initiative — ought to be proactive in removing the ones that are no longer necessary and in fulfilling any that have not yet been fulfilled, six decades after Brown.

Center for Equal Opportunity Praises Court's School Decisions

The Center for Equal Opportunity praised the Supreme Court's decisions in the Seattle and Louisville school cases today.

CEO chairman Linda Chavez said: "Today's decisions vindicate the principle in Brown v. Board of Education that schoolchildren should not be assigned to schools on the basis of skin color. It is a victory for parents and students of all races."

CEO president and general counsel Roger Clegg said: "As America becomes increasingly a multiracial and multiethnic society, it also becomes more and more untenable to have laws that categorize our people because of race and national origin."

Both Chavez and Clegg said that they hoped that the Bush administration, which had filed briefs in the cases urging the Court to strike down the race-based student assignments, would use the decisions to dismantle racial and ethnic preferences still being used by the federal government, and to attack racial and ethnic discrimination elsewhere.

CEO had joined an amicus brief with the Pacific Legal Foundation in urging the Court to grant review in the cases, and then joined again with PLF after the Court had granted review, urging the Court to declare the race-based student assignment policies in the two school districts to be unconstitutional.
The Center for Equal Opportunity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational foundation that
focuses on civil rights, bilingual education, and immigration and assimilation issues nationwide.