Under pressure from the Education Department, which investigated it over “racial disparities” and “disparate impact,” the Oakland, California, school system has agreed to impose “targeted reductions” in “suspensions for African American students, Latino students, and students receiving special education services; and African American students suspended for defiance.” See Agreement to Resolve Oakland Unified School District, OCR Case No. 09125001, page 14, Section VIII(c)(iii).
These “targeted reductions” are racial quotas in all but name. (“Disparate impact” is when a process affects one racial group more than another, despite having no racist motive, such as when whites have higher average scores than minorities on a standardized test.) The Oakland case is just “the first of some 20 federal investigations into racial disparities in school districts’ disciplinary practices,” which may lead to racial quotas in school discipline in many other school systems (and eventually perhaps in colleges as well).
Contrary to the Education Department’s demands, the federal appeals court in Chicago has said that schools cannot use racial targets or quotas for school discipline, since that violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. See People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, 111 F.3d 528, 534 (7th Cir. 1997). That court ruling also said that a school cannot use race in student discipline to offset racial disparities not rooted in school officials’ racism (so-called “disparate impact”).
In related news, Florida has unveiled a new plan to set academic goals for students based on race.
On Tuesday, the board passed a revised strategic plan that says that by 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level. For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, whites at 86 percent, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as poverty and disabilities, reported the Palm Beach Post.
The plan has infuriated many community activists in Palm Beach County and across the state.
Of course, the federal government had a hand in this as well.
In addition, State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan said that setting goals for different subgroups was needed to comply with terms of a waiver that Florida and 32 other states have from some provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. These waivers were used to make the states independent from some federal regulations. (Read More)
These are examples of institutionalized racism, if you ask me.
Update: Hot Air linked – thanks!
Update: Linked by Lady Liberty – thanks!
Update: Hans Bader emailed and defended Florida’s education department for this policy.
I hate to say this, but Florida’s goals are actually fairly ambitious for black and Hispanic students, by historical standards. I believe that the Federal government requires race-specific measurements under No Child Left Behind, which focuses on the minority achievement gap, but does not expect it to disappear overnight. (The minority achievement gap is huge, mostly for reasons beyond schools’ control).
It is unrealistic for schools that are mostly black and Hispanic (which generally involves more students in poverty and high-crime areas) to have student pass rates as high as schools that are mostly white. A mostly black school with good teachers is still going to have a lower student pass or proficiency rate than a mostly white school with mediocre teachers. Why should the school with better teachers be deemed failing because its students have more challenges to surmount and thus do worse for reasons beyond the school’s control?
If a state is effectively forced to have race-tiered goals (by No Child Left Behind or by the Obama Administration), it is better that they be realistic, than utopian. Expecting blacks and Hispanics, who are poorer than whites on average and are more likely to live in crime-prone neighborhoods, to have the same pass rates as whites or Asians is unrealistic. In that sense, I understand what Florida is doing.
Florida’s race-tiered standards are disquieting, but I don’t blame Florida for them. It is just dealing with the hand that was dealt it by the federal government and reality.
Seeing that Bader wrote the piece linked above regarding race-based disciplinary policies in schools, he obviously wasn’t defending that practice.