Can public schools accept or reject students based on their race?
Andrew J. Coulson:
Last week, the Supreme Court took up that question in a pair of school integration cases from Seattle and Louisville. In each case, students were denied admission to their chosen public schools because they were not the right color to increase racial balance.
Supporters of race-based student assignment, from the NAACP to MTV, believe it promotes socially and educationally valuable interaction among white and minority students. In reality, these policies have been about as effective at producing meaningful integration and educational excellence as arranged marriages are at manufacturing true love.
Even in their most basic goal of achieving racial balance in school-level enrollment, forced integration policies have fallen short. Harvard's Civil Rights Project has observed that public schools are little more racially integrated today than they were before such policies were introduced, with "more than 70% of the nation's black students now attend[ing] predominantly minority schools."
The historical attempt to force racial balance through busing not only failed to integrate schools, it dramatically increased residential segregation by accelerating the shift of the predominantly white middle class to the suburbs. (Middle-class blacks fled, too, but were fewer in number.)
Denying students their chosen public school drives still more families out of urban districts. Court documents show that in 2001 alone, 30 students left the Seattle Public School District because they ran afoul of the racial assignment policy. Many of these families will likely move to suburban districts, and since most of the students rebuffed under this policy are white, that will further aggravate residential segregation.