Local School Boards and Race
There’s a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal today on how affluent families (mostly white) in Seattle can “sway” school administrators into accommodating the parents’ school-assignment desires; the context is the Supreme Court case that’s being heard today, challenging the school district’s use of race in assignments to ensure a politically correct racial and ethnic mix in the most popular schools. But the existence of this kind of “swaying,” it seems to me, bolsters the position of those challenging the racial balancing. It shows that local school systems are inherently political bodies, subject to political pressures of all sorts, and that inevitably that means racial pressures. It follows that courts certainly ought not defer to these bodies’ judgments when they involve racial discrimination, even if they can find a social scientist or two to testify in favor of such preferences. Indeed, if one had to identify one area in which, based on the experiences of the last half-century or so, it would be inappropriate for courts to defer to local political bodies, it would be when school boards assign students on the basis of skin color.