Debate Over Equal-Opportunity Education Heats Up

Fifty-Two Years After Brown V. Board Of Education, the Supreme Court has agreed to rule on lawsuits filed in Washington and Kentucky in which white parents claim school boards using numerical targets to maintain racial diversity in K–12 schools is unconstitutional.

The parents claim the practices violate a 2003 University of Michigan judgment affirming that racial quotas in college admissions are unconstitutional.

The districts, which are 60% and 34% minority, respectively, contend that their actions are legal because the ruling does allow race to be one of many factors taken into consideration when assembling diverse student bodies.

The final decision could affect 48 million students. A negative ruling may “ultimately affect [minority] access to quality facilities and take away the schools’ ability to rectify inequities,” says Michael Wotorson, national director of education for the NAACP.

Also optimistic is Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.). “Nothing should weaken the Court’s precedent that diversity is an important component of every student’s education and enrichment. The Court made this clear in [2003], and it should uphold this principle once again,” he says.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in December and make a final decision in July 2007. Meanwhile, assaults on equal-opportunity education abound in other arenas. Washington is pressuring colleges to make minority aid programs available to all students, and a recently defeated higher education bill amendment demanded that federally funded universities produce reports exposing sensitive racial and ethnic data about their applicants.

In addition, the Bush administration recently cut spending for Pell Grants, Perkins loans, and other student aid programs, often utilized by minorities. The $12 billion reduction is the largest decrease in history.