New Article: Robert A. Garda Jr., Searching for Equity Amid a System of Schools: The View from New Orleans, 42 Fordham Urban Law Journal 613 (2015). Abstract below:
Today, New Orleans education stands at a crossroads in deciding how to achieve equity for its vulnerable student populations. One route relies on centralizing services, planning, and oversight to ensure that every school provides an appropriate education to any type of student that walks through the schoolhouse door. This path embraces the version of inclusion equality set forth in Brown v. Board of Education: “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The other route relies on the market driven reform underlying the charter movement to create specialized schools to fill the unmet demands of vulnerable populations. This route embraces an emerging view of equality- where separate can be equal, possibly even superior, if parents are empowered to maximize their child’s academic outcomes in specialized settings. This Article argues that New Orleans is headed down this latter route and identifies the lessons that can be learned from its evolution to a system of schools.
New Article: Palma Joy Strand, Education-as-Inheritance Crowds Out Education-as-Opportunity, 59 St. Louis L.J. 283 (2015). Abstract below:
Since the founding of our nation, education has been valued as a preeminent means of achieving equal opportunity and the social mobility of democracy. A generation ago, however, Professor John Langbein diagnosed a different function of education: the transmission of wealth from one generation to the next.
In this article, I examine education as intergenerational wealth transmission through a critical lens. My primary inquiry is whether the traditional role of education-as-opportunity is being “crowded out” by education-as-inheritance.
The article first examines and verifies Langbein’s diagnosis: Education today is indeed an important way to transfer wealth intergenerationally. The article next documents lack of access to education for those without economic resources, a lack of access that extends from birth through college. The article concludes by identifying flagging public investment in education as creating a vacuum that is being filled by the increasingly privatized provision of education. This privatized investment constitutes an indirect but real form of intergenerational wealth transmission, which dampens social mobility.
Countering this trend, increasing social mobility will necessitate a shift away from education-as-inheritance toward education-as-opportunity. More progressive public investment at all levels of education is called for to facilitate this shift.
Symposium Issue Published: “Education Equality in the Twenty-First Century” by U. Pa. J. Const. L. (2015). Articles below, from the website, after break:
Symposium Issue Published by Arkansas Law Review: “Education: The New Civil Right” (2015), with the articles published taken from the law review’s website below:
Symposium: Prologue by Pamela J. Meanes, Esq.; Tracie R. Porter; and Everett Bellamy
New Book: Lani Guinier, The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America (2015). From the publisher’s website:
Standing on the foundations of America’s promise of equal opportunity, our universities purport to serve as engines of social mobility and practitioners of democracy. But as acclaimed scholar and pioneering civil rights advocate Lani Guinier argues, the merit systems that dictate the admissions practices of these institutions are functioning to select and privilege elite individuals rather than create learning communities geared to advance democratic societies. Having studied and taught at schools such as Harvard University, Yale Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Guinier has spent years examining the experiences of ethnic minorities and of women at the nation’s top institutions of higher education, and here she lays bare the practices that impede the stated missions of these schools.
Goaded on by a contemporary culture that establishes value through ranking and sorting, universities assess applicants using the vocabulary of private, highly individualized merit. As a result of private merit standards and ever-increasing tuitions, our colleges and universities increasingly are failing in their mission to provide educational opportunity and to prepare students for productive and engaged citizenship.
To reclaim higher education as a cornerstone of democracy, Guinier argues that institutions of higher learning must focus on admitting and educating a class of students who will be critical thinkers, active citizens, and publicly spirited leaders. Guinier presents a plan for considering “democratic merit,” a system that measures the success of higher education not by the personal qualities of the students who enter but by the work and service performed by the graduates who leave.
Guinier goes on to offer vivid examples of communities that have developed effective learning strategies based not on an individual’s “merit” but on the collaborative strength of a group, learning and working together, supporting members, and evolving into powerful collectives. Examples are taken from across the country and include a wide range of approaches, each innovative and effective. Guinier argues for reformation, not only of the very premises of admissions practices but of the shape of higher education itself.
New Article: Zachary D. Liscow, Are Court Orders Responsible for the ‘Return to the Central City’? The Consequence of School Finance Litigation, SSRN Jan. 2015. Abstract below:
Central cities’ populations have rebounded over the last few decades, but scholars are unsure why. I propose and offer econometric evidence for a novel hypothesis — legal changes have driven central cities’ resurgence. In particular, state fiscal aid for schools in poor cities, mandated by state courts, has made poor cities more desirable places to live by improving their schools and reducing their taxes.
I test my hypothesis by taking advantage of the natural experiment resulting from the dramatic increase in transfers to some states’ poor cities in response to court-ordered school finance equalization, using Census data on over 20,000 cities and towns. The key threats to accurate measurement are that poor places may have grown differently than rich places in the absence of school finance redistribution, and places in high-redistribution states may have grown differently than places in low-redistribution states. To address these concerns, I use a continuous version of the “difference-in-difference-in-differences” econometric technique. The results show that redistribution had a large effect on urban population growth between 1980 and 2010, explaining about one-third of the “return to the central city.” I then conduct a case study on the local finances of Connecticut, and find that the state transfers for education led to tax reductions, as well as the intended increases in education spending.
Finally, the paper suggests two reasons that state aid to poor places may be not only equitable but also efficient. First, financing schools locally discourages people from living in poor cities by requiring that their residents pay for the costs of providing services to the cities’ poor. The results show that the location choices of many people are affected by this local financing, suggesting that its efficiency costs may be large. Second, the paper shows that school finance redistribution promotes the positive externalities associated with central city living. These arguments could be used in future legislative debates or litigation to support more school finance redistribution.