Monday, July 2, 2007

PPF Pearls: The Constitutionality of Chapter 220

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated voluntary school integration programs in Seattle and Louisville, obviously has implications for the Milwaukee area's own voluntary integration effort, the Chapter 220 program. What implications, exactly, are unclear--Justice Kennedy, while joining in the outcome, declined to join the majority opinion, which found that racial classifications cannot be used to assign students to schools. Justice's Kennedy's opinion leaves open the possibility that racial classifications could be appropriate when used among other factors. Expect further litigation to tease out exactly what weight, if any, school districts can place on race.

The Chapter 220 program uses race as the only criterion for participation, allowing minority students from Milwaukee to enroll in schools in the suburbs, as well as white students from the suburbs to enroll in schools in Milwaukee. The program's only goal, according to the legislative history, was integration. In fact, in signing the bill, Governor Lucey emphasized that it would achieve its intended results immediately. (See the Forum report, "Interdistrict Chapter 200: Changing Goals and Perspectives.")

For a discussion of the legal issues of Chapter 220, including many relevant cases from the federal appellate courts, see the Forum's publication, "Publicly Funded School Choice Options in Milwaukee: An Examination of the Legal Issues." (Link to executive summary only. The full report is available from the Forum offices: 414-276-8240.)

NOTE: PPF Pearls are regular blog entries highlighting findings from past PPF reports.

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