Where’s our legal opinion on racial balance?

I have the memorandum of law but you can't see it!

I have what you paid for, but you can’t see it!

Back on July 5th, our BOE retained independent counsel to study and give an opinion on the constitutionality of Connecticut’s racial redistricting law and the likelihood of a successful challenge to that law (I have the emails setting forth the retainer, including the legal fees of both the senior partner overseeing the research and the (named) associate he’d be assigning the work to; I’ll release them down the road, if necessary). The retainer agreement anticipated a fairly modest cost – $8,000 tops, 10-20 hours of an associate’s time, 5-10 hours of a partner’s – so shouldn’t that memorandum of law be finished by now? Where is it? Aren’t we, the taxpayers of Greenwich, the clients of this outside counsel? Let’s see what we paid for.

From the Greenwich Time article I link to below:

When asked to comment on the test-score disparities, Board of Education Chairman Leslie Moriarty instead responded Monday with an overview of the board’s evaluation of the results. That process will include an in-depth review at the board’s Sept. 19 meeting.

“These discussions will include an interpretation of outcomes, implications for current academic strategies and action plans as we look ahead,” she said.

I have the suspicion that Chairman Moriarty doesn’t plan to include possible legal action as part of her board’s discussion of “strategy and action plans” at that September 19th meeting. I think she should.

25 Comments

Filed under Racial Redistricting

25 responses to “Where’s our legal opinion on racial balance?

  1. Once

    When I was on the RISE committee they did the same thing. Brought in an attorney to say everything is just fine with racial balancing. They wanted to head off the “let’s challenge the State” crowd early in the game.

  2. Flash

    The Butler
    Jane Fonda plays Nancy Reagan

  3. Anonymous

    The law and regulation is full of such contradictions that I don’t think a lawsuit is necessary at this point. There are two fundamental points on the law and regulation.

    1. We must racially balance our schools without using race as the primary factor in determining how to racially balance schools.

    While nonsensical, the state has instructed us not to use race as a primary factor primarily because they know it violates federal court decisions and would not hold up in court.

    2. The regulation states that any solution cannot inconvenience people from minority classification or stated another way any inconvenience must be born by whites.

    If you walk through a busing or re-districting solution, you are naturally going to inconvenience someone classified as a minority unless you are able to selectively choose non-minorities to bus or rezone. This would violate rule #1. So, the only solution is a voluntary solution where you can make a strong case that if they choose to attend a school then that is naturally not an inconvenience forced upon them.

    The town has proposed a voluntary approach by making NS and Parkway magnet schools based primarily on facility utilization issues with race only as one of the factors. This fits within the guidelines the state has established. The state will not reject this approach and we’ll be revisiting this in 2017. The fact is, we really can’t sue until the State does something – rejects our plan, mandates a change,etc. The solution the board has come up with has good legal standing so this issue will pass until we meet again in 2017.

  4. dogwalker

    So the GT had an article today about the significant gap in test score between minorities and majorities, pointing particularly to the two “unbalanced” schools in town.

    Is anyone here familiar with scores or where they can be found for the State? Specifically, does anybody know whether the “gap” is less wide in “balanced” schools than in “unbalanced” schools?

    • They were reported about two weeks ago. You might try searching the GT’s own site, though I don’t believe its search feature works very well.

    • AZ

      This point is key. If students of the same race perform similarly at unbalanced and balanced schools then the issue is clearly the preparedness/ability/effort of individuals. If chosen minority populations perform less well in unbalanced schools, then it may be possible to make the case that the schools are unequal, though I suspect if you normalized for race/income the results would be no different.

      • dogwalker

        Exactly, AZ.

        I was being lazy hoping someone had done the comparing already (certainly somewhere they have). Hopefully the town has; it would be a good point in their arguments to the state.

    • Riverslide

      If I recall correctly, the most recent BOE presentation to the state included the claim that in Greenwich the “minorities” in “unbalanced” schools did better than those in “balanced” schools. Today’s Greenwich Time article makes that claim a little suspect, unfortunately.

  5. Send in the clowns

    CMT Reports – http://solutions1.emetric.net/cmtpublic/Index.aspx

    Regarding the research concerning challenging the law, the BOE said that all conversations about possible legal action are/will be held in Executive Session (as are all of their conversations about any possible/known legal actions and discussions with lawyers).

  6. Anonymous

    The gap is less wide for Greenwich. There was a NY times article on how minorities in Greenwich generally performed better than other districts.

  7. Anonymous

    Performance is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned. Greenwich must be racially balanced each year and if not come up with a plan. As long as this plan is accepted we will get a pass until 2017. We need the state to take action agaisnst Greenwich and to prod them to take action we need a backbone. That means that we need to come up with plans that suites the interests of the people of Greenwich and let the state take action.

    The best thing that can happen is for someone from a minority group to be inconvenienced and have the resources to sue the state or town. This includes people from mixed races, Asians, and the fairly large Latin American community in Riverside. Move a minority from Riverside to New Lebanon and now you have a really good case or even better classify the move based on race. The BOE tagged every household as minority/non-minority in their survey. Let’s ask them to use this to determine who should move…now we have a case.

  8. CatoRenasci

    The real issue here is that local school boards are creatures of the State, not the Town (even though they are responsible for schools in the Town) and it is unclear what the State can do if the school board simply defies the state mandate on racial balance.

    I’m not sure whether it would make sense to challenge the law preemptively, it might be necessary to tell the State to pound sand on racial balancing, and then sue to block any State action to take over the Town’s schools. Remember, the State took over the Bridgeport schools in 2011, but the CT Supreme Court voided the take over in 2012. Not clear what would happen if the State tried to take over Greenwich’s schools. I’m pretty sure the racial balance law is unconstitutional, but it would be quite a legal battle, between state and federal court.

    • That was my original proposal, Cato – trouble is, our pusillanimous school board has until now refused to do anything more than roll over and beg. I’ve been trying to instill a little backbone in that body, so far without success.

  9. Anonymous

    The BoE just circulated its survey on magnets (ie: creating a few magnets to create racial balancing in the schools that are not balanced). They had said early on if they took this approach, they knew they needed to poll the community to see what would make folks move around. They listed a number of factors and asked if any of them would make people leave their current school to attend. The ones that jumped out at me (and not in an enticing way) were technology, arts, spanish speaking teachers and getting to attend the middle school of your choosing. I was not happy when they mentioned fiddling with the elementary schools, and I am fuming they are mentioning the middle schools. I sincerely hope that folks are still paying attention even if they think redistricting is off the table.

  10. housecat

    Please tell me the outside counsel retained has some experience with Con Law. Because if recent history is any guide, the BOE could easily have hired a bunch of dirt lawyers to do this instead. Having a law degree is no guarantee that someone is proficient in this particular practice area. Look no further than the nonsensical “findings” of the Town Attorney and former State Attorney General on this subject.
    BTW, why are we even paying for this? At least one Greenwich resident/attorney has publicly volunteered to do this pro bono.

  11. Anonymous

    Anon at 2:50pm posting again, but I want to make a separate point.

    I would like to know from the BoE the total % that complete this survey and the breakdown by race (since that seems to be so darn important – it is indeed one of the questions asked). If they don’t get adequate feedback from the ENTIRE community (and by that I mean all ethnicities and a statistically significant total number of responses), they should not spend one dime on this magnet idea.

    And clearly they now realize that what draws people to ISD is the lure of EMS, not that stupid IB program they run. Too bad they didn’t figure that out before we wasted money on the other magnets in town.

    Harumph!

    • CatoRenasci

      I don’t know about now, but the original lure of IS Dundee was Doug Fanelli, who had just retired as principal of Old Greenwich School. He was almost as beloved as Ben Davenport, who made Eastern “Country Day” what it was.

      In the lower grades, the IB is fairly harmless from what I can tell, it’s only in middle and high school it becomes problematic and profoundly anti-American.

      • Anonymous

        Agreed Fanelli (and the staff he took with him) was the original lure. They’re (almost) all gone.

  12. Send in the clowns

    I don’t think that many of Dundee’s kids are zoned for CMS or WMS – maybe a small percentage of the magnet students overall. I think most are from the other 3 EMS school zones.