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date: 26 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Social science demonstrates that racial and socioeconomic segregation undermine the quality of education students receive in a number of different ways. Yet, in the absence of intentional racial segregation, federal law provides no obvious remedy. In fact, federal law may even limit the options schools can voluntarily pursue in addressing the problem. State constitutional law provides a solution. State constitutions guarantee students access to adequate and equal educational opportunities. If socioeconomic segregation is a causal factor in depriving students of those guaranteed opportunities, state courts can afford students a remedy. Plaintiffs need not show intentional racial or socioeconomic segregation. Two state supreme courts have already explicitly recognized as much, and analogous claims are pending in other states. This chapter argues that one key to expanding these claims is changing how courts and educators think about student assignment policies. Students—just like money, teachers, and facilities—are a key resource that school districts distribute. When districts segregate middle-income and low-income students, they are, consciously or otherwise, making decisions about the quality of the learning environment that will exist in individual schools. Those decisions, too often, create unequal access to adequate educational opportunities.

Keywords: Achievement gap, Socioeconomic status integration, SES integration, School desegregation, State constitutional law, School finance litigation, Middle-income students, Middle-income peers, Access to education, School segregation

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