- The U.S. Department of Education's (ED) recent decision to withdraw a 14-page Obama-era document that advised school districts on ways they could legally attempt to racially integrate schools may be viewed as a symbolic gesture by some. But it is not likely to have much effect because only about a dozen school districts in the nation use race as a factor in school assignment policies, Chalkbeat reports.
- The underlying laws have not changed, but the decision basically means schools that use race as a factor in school assignment policies will no longer have the backing of the federal government, a move that critics see as a form of intimidation from a conservative administration and a missed opportunity to sway policy decisions regarding race.
- However, others defend the move, citing the fact that using race as a factor in policy decisions is unconstitutional and that opposition to racial preferences does not equate with opposition to diversity.
According to an ED letter announcing the decision to rescind the Obama-era guidance, the move was based on a desire to draw policies in line with the Constitution and current law. “The Departments have reviewed the documents and have concluded that they advocate policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution, Title IV, and Title VI," the letter states. "Accordingly, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have decided to withdraw the documents."
Though the decision is being viewed skeptically by some, it seems that the 2011 document that has been withdrawn was not making much an impact anyway. The 14-page document only effectively applied to 60 school districts in 25 states, who were voluntarily working to create more diverse schools. However, those 60 school districts saw little change in racial segregation. In fact, overall, segregation seems to be increasing overall in this country despite numerous attempts to correct it.
The solution to creating true racial balance in schools remains elusive. Attempts to solve the issue by setting rigid racial quotas have sometimes backfired. Lawsuits to settle the issue have sometimes ended with surprising results because of the complexity of the law. Racial segregation in schools is often tied to housing issues that are not easily solved either. While the quest to encourage diversity in schools remains a noble cause and one that is beneficial to students, the most recent decision to pull Obama-era guidance is likely to have little impact in the long run.