Leveling Localism and Racial Inequality in Education Through the No Child Left Behind Act Public Choice Provision
45 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2012
Date Written: January 12, 2012
School district boundary lines play a pivotal role in shaping students’ educational opportunities. Living on one side of a school district boundary rather than another can mean the difference between being able to attend a high-achieving resource-enriched school or having to attend a low-achieving resource-deprived school.
Despite the prominent role that school district boundary lines play in dictating educational opportunities for students, remedies formulated by the federal judiciary - the institution frequently looked upon to address issues of school segregation and inequality - are ineffective in ameliorating disparities between school districts. They are ineffective because the federal judiciary evidences a doctrinal preference for localism in its school equity jurisprudence. This doctrinal preference for localism has led the federal judiciary to, among other things, find inter-district school desegregation plans unconstitutional while upholding the constitutionality of school financing schemes with gross disparities in per-pupil spending between school districts.
This Article suggests that a new remedial paradigm that embraces regionalism as an antidote to the localism found in the federal judiciary’s school equity jurisprudence is necessary to combat segregation and inequality between school districts. One potential key lies in the No Child Left Behind Act (“NCLB”) public choice provision, which allows students to transfer from a failing school to a non-failing one. This Article argues that Congress should amend the public choice provision during NCLB’s next re-authorization by adopting a statutory framework similar to the framework found in portions of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), which embraces regionalism and citizen mobility as a means of facilitating integration and equality.
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