Bench Memos

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School Choice, Yes; Racial Quotas, No


An op-ed by Juan Williams in yesterday’s New York Times—“Don’t Mourn Brown v. Board of Education”—refutes the alarmism of the dissenters in the Seattle and Louisville school cases.  Although the op-ed mistakenly regards the cases as a repudiation rather than a reaffirmation of Brown v. Board of Education, it nonetheless has some interesting insights:


In a series of cases [in the 1990s] in Atlanta, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo., frustrated parents, black and white, appealed to federal judges to stop shifting children from school to school like pieces on a game board. The parents wanted better neighborhood schools and a better education for their children, no matter the racial make-up of the school. In their rulings ending court mandates for school integration, the judges, too, spoke of the futility of using schoolchildren to address social ills caused by adults holding fast to patterns of residential segregation by both class and race.


The focus of efforts to improve elementary and secondary schools shifted to magnet schools, to allowing parents the choice to move their children out of failing schools and, most recently, to vouchers and charter schools.…


Racial malice is no longer the primary motive in shaping inferior schools for minority children. Many failing big city schools today are operated by black superintendents and mostly black school boards.…


The winning argument is that better schools are needed for all children — black, white, brown and every other hue — in order to foster a competitive workforce in a global economy.


Dealing with racism and the bitter fruit of slavery and “separate but equal” legal segregation was at the heart of the court’s brave decision 53 years ago. With Brown officially relegated to the past [sic], the challenge for brave leaders now is to deliver on the promise of a good education for every child. 


And which justices (in dissent, fortunately) voted to strike down school-choice programs as a violation of the Establishment Clause?  The very justices—Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer—who misrepresent themselves (again in dissent, fortunately) in this week’s schools cases as the champions of racial equality.

Tags: Whelan


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