Minneapolis schools discriminate by race

Photo: David Joles/Associated Press “The w...



Photo:

David Joles/Associated Press

“The way to stop race-based discrimination is to stop race-based discrimination,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2007. Yet too many institutions continue to discriminate in the name of redressing discrimination. The latest example is that of the public schools in Minneapolis.

The new Minneapolis teachers’ collective agreement requires layoffs to be based on seniority — also known as “last in, first out” — if positions need to be cut for financial reasons. But minority teachers tend to be younger and less experienced than white teachers. Thus, the contract exempts members of an “underrepresented group” from the seniority layoff rule.

School districts should hire and fire based on job qualifications and performance, which would prevent an unintended disparate impact on minorities. But unions oppose merit-based staff decisions because it could undermine worker solidarity. Minneapolis instead discriminates against race.

The teachers’ union contract appears to violate the Constitution, and in particular the Supreme Court ruling Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education (1986) previous. In that case, a majority of five justices ruled that a school district’s race-based dismissals violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

But judges were divided on whether and when racial bias could be used in personnel decisions. Four majority justices held that remedying the school district’s past discrimination could constitute a compelling governmental interest justifying racial bias if the district were to provide concrete evidence of its past discrimination.

The Minneapolis teachers’ contract appears to be based on this pluralistic view. It states that the exception to the senior firing rule is intended to “address the lingering effects of past discrimination” and that “past discrimination by the district has had a disproportionate impact on the hiring of underrepresented teachers.” . If the district is sued, it will have to substantiate this claim.

It can also hope to dodge strict legal scrutiny by not explicitly referring to racial classifications. The undefined term “under-represented” could be interpreted to include low-income teachers. But what matters is how the rule is applied.

For example, the March 2021 Covid spending bill established a loan forgiveness program for “socially disadvantaged” farmers. The Department of Agriculture interpreted this to only include people “who are one or more of the following: Black/African American, Native American, Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, or Pacific Islander.” . Federal courts blocked the program.

Most judges of Wygant seemed to view racial bias as less odious in hiring than firing decisions. But in both cases, people in a similar situation are denied equal opportunity and the protection of the law. When institutions favor certain racial groups, they discriminate against individuals from other groups.

This is certainly the case for college admissions. Courts grutter (2003) held that creating a more diverse student body is a compelling governmental interest that justifies racial preferences that do not “too harm non-minority applicants” (emphasis added).

This fall, the Court will have the opportunity to review grutterfaulty logic in challenges to “racially conscious” admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. The Minneapolis teachers’ contract highlights why judges must make it clear that racial preferences are still constitutionally prohibited.

Wonder Land: Like other world leaders who have leaned into lockdowns, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party now realize just how complicated the private economy actually is and how easy it is to destroy it. Images: AP/Shutterstock/Bloomberg/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the August 18, 2022 print edition as “Minneapolis Discriminates by Race”.

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