This Story was created by The74, an independent news organization that focuses on education in America.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in the latest phase of a seven year-old school desegregation case that even the existence of schools that aren’t integrated doesn’t violate the state constitution.
Judge Matthew Johnson wrote to uphold a Hennepin County District Court judge’s decision.
Within hours, lawyers representing the plaintiffs, a group consisting of Twin Cities parents, stated that they would appeal to state Supreme Court.
This case stems from 2015 when parents in Minneapolis and St. Paul sued state officials. They claimed that racial segregation in schools prevented their children from receiving the education guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution. Parents criticized a variety of state attempts to desegregate schools dating back over 20 years as inadequate.
State officials insist that they didn’t cause school segregation since the beginning of the case.
The plaintiffs challenged a state exemption law that exempts charter schools. Several high-performing Twin Cities charters applied to be defendants in the case, arguing they don’t exclude any children. They claim that their “culturally affirming school models” appeal to families who are looking for alternatives to the local district schools. These schools have the highest achievement gaps in the country.
Alejandro Cruz Guzman et. al. was already decided by the state Supreme Court. al. In 2018, State of Minnesota v. al. Mandatory mediation was the next stage of the case, as required by law. After 18 months of unsuccessful closed discussions, the plaintiffs requested that a Minneapolis judge stop the case proceeding to trial. He declared that students of color and poverty were violations of the right of every child to receive an education.
Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner didn’t go so far to call racially separated schools segregated in an order she issued last Winter. She noted that there was a specific legal definition of the term regarding the separation between students by race. “The court will use’segregated” when referring to the allegations of plaintiffs to accurately portray what they allege. It will use the term “imbalanced” otherwise, as it recognizes that the term “segregated” often refers to an intentional policy of segregating races or other protected classes.
Like many other states, Minnesota requires charter schools to have more applicants than seats in order to conduct blind lotteries. This practice was originally intended to ensure fair enrollment. The plaintiffs also want the state to use desegregation laws to apply to publicly funded, independently managed charter schools, among other issues that affect school choice.
The suit’s history is complicated. The suit’s historical roots are tangled. In the late 1990s Daniel Shulman was the main plaintiffs’ attorney in the lawsuit. This case resulted in a settlement in which the state was ordered to bus students from poor census tracts of Minneapolis to suburban schools. Districts were also given financial incentives to make students more open to other cultures.
Children of color who went to suburban schools performed less academically than those who went to Minneapolis Public Schools. An audit by the state found that certain districts had spent their integration funds on ethnic art and other questionable items. Legislators appointed a bipartisan commission that decided integration was important for its own sake but made no recommendations on how to encourage it.
The U.S. Supreme Court established parameters for the methods states and districts can use to integrate schools. It draws a line between intentional segregation and unintentional, and rules that race cannot be the only factor determining a student’s school assignment. Like Minnesota, many places have adopted voluntary integration strategies, but none has stopped resegregation.
The state and the Minnesota plaintiffs announced a tentative settlement in May 2021. It included many of the same elements that were put into place after the initial suit. However, the state legislature did not adopt the bills that were proposed to facilitate the agreement. The charter school defendants opposed the settlement.
The case was now likely to go to trial. The plaintiffs requested Robiner to resolve the case by ruling that segregation per se violated the rights of their rights. The case will return to Robiner’s courtroom if the state Supreme Court does not uphold her refusal or rejects another appeal.