A New Strategy for Pursuing Racial and Ethnic Equality in Public Schools

Duke Forum for Law & Social Change, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2009

MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-17

25 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2009

Date Written: August 31, 2009


Despite decades of expensive school desegregation and school finance litigation, millions of African-American and Latino children remain concentrated in high-poverty, racially/ethnically-isolated schools and school districts across the country. When compared to their counterparts, students in these schools generally have lower test scores, higher dropout rates, less qualified teachers, worse learning environments, more limited curricular offerings, poorer health, less parental involvement, and overall a lower quality of education. Staggering inequalities persist, and in the fifty-five years since the Brown v. Board of Education decision, much of the relevant legal landscape has changed. A new strategy is needed, and at this point in time - with a new President and Congress - a different approach may be more likely to succeed than it has been in recent years. In this essay I sketch out one possible new strategy, inviting the responses of activists, lawyers, and scholars alike. I begin by looking back on the past half-decade of educational equality litigation and reflecting on how we have come to this point. Then I propose a two-part strategy to improve racial and ethnic equality in public schools going forward. The first piece takes advantage of new and emerging legal strategies to challenge racially/ethnically disparate interdistrict inputs (funding) and/or outcomes (the adequacy of the education provided). The second piece promotes an emerging policy initiative: integration within districts based not on the race/ethnicity of individual students, but instead on students’ socioeconomic status in concert with other factors.

Keywords: School Desegregation, School Finance, Socioeconomic Status Integration, SES, Race, Ethnicity, Equality, Equity

Suggested Citation

Bowman, Kristine L., A New Strategy for Pursuing Racial and Ethnic Equality in Public Schools (August 31, 2009). Duke Forum for Law & Social Change, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2009, MSU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-17, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1464732

Kristine L. Bowman (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

620 Farm Lane
East Lansing, MI 48824-1300
United States

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