Alexandria, VA – Oct. 23 - The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has urged the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold school district authority to use race as one factor in assigning students to sought-after openings in elementary and secondary schools.
NSBA, along with seven other organizations, including associations of school administrators, principals, and educator groups, submitted an amicus brief in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District #1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, which the Court will hear together. The cases are similar in that both school districts use race as a factor in their student assignment policies.
The NSBA brief argues that local officials, with their expertise and knowledge, can adopt voluntary measures to foster racial integration and therefore create a more racially diverse learning environment. These measures, the brief notes, are narrowly tailored to the schools’ educational goals, and the racial criteria neither operates like quotas nor unduly burdens individuals on the basis of their race.
“The development of student assignment plans involves complex decisions that have a direct bearing on the educational mission of schools. Local boards evaluate academic research, weigh all sides of the issue and give substantial consideration to community values and interests before agreeing on a final decision,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA executive director. “We believe the Court should defer to the expertise of these elected board members whose primary goal is to ensure that all children receive a high quality education.”
The brief also notes that the Court traditionally has deferred to local school boards’ judgment in charting education policy for their local communities. That deference, according to the brief, should include race-conscious student assignment policies adopted by local school boards to foster the benefits of a racially diverse learning environment in K-12 education.
“These cases are about allowing local school boards to decide on behalf of the community what is in the best interests of all students,” said Francisco Negrón, NSBA general counsel. “It is very important that the Court not replace the judgment of local school boards with a federally mandated one-size-fits-all approach.
“School districts have a compelling reason to create a diverse learning environment because it helps improve student achievement and also prepares students to live and work in an increasingly diverse society,” Negrón said.
“School boards are being held more accountable than ever for the academic achievement of students in every racial subgroup,” said Thomas Goldstein, who heads Akin Gump’s Supreme Court practice and is the counsel of record for the NSBA brief. “We urge the Court not to undermine local school boards in their pursuit of a racially diverse learning environment and the innovation, accountability and educational excellence advanced by local control of public education.”
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for December 4, 2006. To read NSBA’s complete amicus brief, please visit www.nsba.org .
The National School Boards Association, a federation of state school boards associations representing more than 95,000 local school board members, closely monitors the courts and regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs in cases that affect the nation’s 50 million public school students.