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UCLA Publishes Progress On School Integration After Supreme Court Decision

LOS ANGELES - Three years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court released its 5-4 decision overturning

Louisville and Seattle’s voluntarily implemented integration plans and threatening many

voluntary plans across the country, the type of plans courts had encouraged for many years. The

Parents Involved decision, issued on June 28, 2007, reflected a divided Supreme Court with four

justices strongly supporting these voluntary plans and four justices strongly opposed. Justice

Kennedy’s opinion decided the issues and explicitly accepted some kinds of desegregation

efforts. The divided decision confused many educators and it was somewhat unclear what did

remain legal. In 2008, the Bush Administration sent a letter to school districts misguidedly

interpreting the Parents Involved decision in a way that suggested only race-neutral means of

pursuing integration would be legal. This was an inaccurate description of Kennedy’s controlling

opinion and suggested that school authorities should abandon all efforts to intentionally pursue

integration. As President Barack Obama took office, civil rights groups and other stakeholders

anticipated that his administration would be more supportive of integration efforts, including

issuing new guidance to replace that from 2008. Yet, well into the second year of the Obama

Administration (which announced earlier this year that it would reinvigorate the Office of Civil

Rights) no such guidance about voluntary integration has been issued. From our contacts with

school districts across the country, we believe that this guidance is much needed.

In addition to these legal and policy constraints—in addition to the opportunities and

challenges presented by rapidly shifting demographics in the nation’s public schools—districts,

like other governmental bodies, face significant financial pressure in the wake of declining

revenues stemming from the economic crisis. This economic pressure is forcing school districts

to make deep cuts in services, which is another potential constraint for integration efforts.

Ironically, at a time in which districts face these varied constraints and when some

districts may be grappling with diversity for the first time, we know more than ever about the

importance of preventing racially segregated schools and the benefits that students—and

society—receive from diverse schools. In fact, the Supreme Court, in its 2007 decision,

acknowledged this evidence as “compelling” reasons for districts to adopt policies to further

integration.

This report synthesizes major themes in local policymaking during the last year, as local

school districts continue to grapple with legal and economic constraints on policies that are

aimed at creating diverse schools. Our report last year on the second anniversary of Parents

Involved began to uncover some of the consequences of the difficult economic situation facing

many local and state governments in terms of budget cuts that affected integration efforts.1

There are also a number of ways the federal government is influencing districts’ policy efforts.

As part of the Civil Rights Project’s initiative on school integration, we have tracked

media accounts of school districts’ policies that may affect student diversity.2 While this is not

an exhaustive review, this memo summarizes developments in school districts across the country

over the last year. We found nearly 600 articles in 39 states.

We classify the developments into several categories below. First, we review the

changing demographics facing districts. Second, we examine the myriad of ways in which the

tightening economic climate affects districts’ integration efforts. Third, we describe the differing

ways in which the federal government is affecting districts’ efforts. Fourth, we look at the ways

in which communities have mobilized around integration over the last year. Finally, we

conclude by describing resources that could be helpful for educators and community members

who still seek to further diverse schools.

 

 
READ FULL REPORT HERE
 
 
The mission of the UCLA Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles is to help renew the civil rights movement by bridging the worlds of ideas and action, to be a preeminent source of intellectual capital within that movement, and to deepen the understanding of the issues that must be resolved to achieve racial and ethnic equity as society moves through the great transformation of the 21st century.  We believe that either the country will learn to deal effectively with the richness of its astonishing diversity or it will lose pace in a globalizing world and decline and divide. Focused research and the best ideas of scholars and leaders from all parts of the country can make a decisive contribution to a renewal of the promise of the civil rights movement.

 



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