Monday, December 04, 2006

Brown v Board of Education redux?

Recently, it seems Brown v. Board of Education has come under fire. The landmark Supreme Court decision that ruled "Seperate but equal" would never provide the same educational opportunities for minority students.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments on two cases of high schools in the Seattle area and elementary schools in the Louisville area.

Parents are suing over the opportunity to enroll their children in schools of their choice, but due to racial balance issues, they have been forbidden thus far.

Listening to the argument and discussion early this morning on CSPAN was interesting to say the least. Proponents have agrued that these schools should be held to the same legal standing as the Michigan Affirmative action case.

Many of the justices shot that argument down stating that the difference between a top 5 higher education academic institution and academic differences between several local school was not significant enough to warrant action.

Justice Souter stated "When affirmative action sets quotas by race in order to guarantee diversity, someone of another race necessarily gets bumped. However, in the cases before the court, no child was denied an education in the school districts."

It will be interesting to see what emerges from this case, but it got me to think about the issue more...

Looking at a map on wikipedia (one of my newest favorite sites) shows the state of the segregated schools before Brown v. BOE. Trying to keep in mind that this was a landmark education and civil rights case, the disparity in discriminatory practices was obviously strong in the southern US.

The current funding mechanisms in place create inequity. Property values in Minneapolis are less than Edina, and Eden Prairie, placing schools in property tax poor areas in greater dispair funding wise. The same holds true out here in the rural areas. For every 1% increase in Wayzata, a rural district in say, Cokato, would have to increase more than 6%. And that is to attain an equal level of funding.

I stongly support diversity. In fact, its because of the diverse set of experiences at St Cloud, in the Army, and in my lobby work that have made me recognize the importance of diverse cultures.

It also provokes a logical discussion on "open enrollment" here in MN. The intent behind OE is to allow kids to recieve a more well rounded education. Unfortunately, they have created more athletic opportunities for students rather than academic.

Racial disparity issues are not significant in Central MN, but what if Seattle schools had stronger open enrollment policies? We have some stronger open enrollment rules coming down the road soon, in repsonse to the athletic abuse of the system.

Inequity in education is a significant issue throughout Central MN. School funding failures at the state level force larger tax increases at the local level and actually encourage more open enrollement to larger schools, killing small town America.

The Supreme Court decision pending may have more of an impact here than many of us think...

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