Seattle v. Race v. Class

In the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, the Seattle Public Schools are wrestling with the idea of using income instead of race as a “tiebraker” when deciding high school admission:

Currently, Seattle’s Open Choice system allows students to choose their schools. Several popular — and mostly white — high schools have waiting lists while high schools that serve mostly students of color are losing enrollment.

School districts should now “think about other factors,” said Gary Orfield, a professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “They need to think about geography, language, poverty and test scores, and combine those with race, and figure out how to increase diversity in that way.”

Seattle School Board President Cheryl Chow said family income is a better arbiter of success in school than race, anyway

I’m generally pretty sympathetic to the idea of replacing race-based affirmitive action with a more class-based system (so is Barack Obama, btw). After all, you get most of the same kids anyway, and you sidestep the race issue. But I’m not totally convinced it’s going to be successful in the long term. If there’s anything that’s more of an entitlement than being white in America, it’s being rich in America. How long until the rich parents sue because they’ve been crowded out by poor kids? Not long! In fact, the lawyer who brought the original suit is already thinking about it:

Instead of looking for a replacement for the racial tiebreaker, the district should focus on improving schools, said Harry Korrell, the attorney for the parents who sued the district.

“If what they’re trying to accomplish is the same racial balancing that the court rejected here, and they want to use that [socioeconomic] mechanism instead of race, then they may have trouble,” he said.

He has a point. The Open Choice program starts in high school. By high school, the achievement gap between poor students and rich ones is almost irreversible. In fact, if you recall Paul Tough’s article in the NYT Magazine last fall, it may start as early as 3 years old. Tough’s argument, which seems reasonable to me, is that you have to get the poor kids early, and actually give them a better education than the rich kids to make up for ineffective parenting* and put them on the same playing field as their wealthier counterparts.

So let’s make for some kick-ass elementary and middle schools — ones where the low-income neighborhoods have smaller classes and better teachers — and the high school issue should take care of itself. It’s a hard sell, but that’s what it would take.

* Lower-income parents, according to Tough, expose their kids to fewer words, which hinders their early brain development vis-a-vis rich kids.

Expensive Cars

I don’t normally read him, but today’s Charles Krauthammer column is about the energy bill, so I subjected myself to it. Here’s what I was rewarded with:

Apart from the safety issue, there is the issue of cost. Car prices will rise. That could in turn drive one or all of the Big Three U.S. auto companies, all reeling financially, into insolvency.

The problem with the big three is not that they can’t sell expensive cars. In fact, they’ve been selling expensive, highly profitable SUVs for years. Their problem is they can’t make a profit selling cheap cars. But if CAFE standards rise, and cheap cars get more expensive, that should do wonders for the big three, no?

Elizabeth Edwards and Teh Gay

Elizabeth Edwards’ pro-gay marriage views are welcome, of course, but aren’t they a little convenient?

It’s pretty obviously a way to wink at the gay community and signal support while her husband barnstorms South Carolina talking about how he’s “uncomfortable” with the issue. I suppose it’s pretty clever, as base-winking goes. Much better than the way Bush used to obliquely reference hymns and psalms in his State of the Union addresses.

Friend of Matski? Run for Office!

Got a phone call this morning from a old friend of mine, Dan Grant.  IIRC, Dan was last seen over some enchiladas suissas at one of Austin, TX’s many fine TexMex eateries.  Now, Dan’s running for Austin’s congressional seat.

Check out Dan’s site.  Some really interesting stuff there.  And if you can find it in your heart to keep the blue part of Texas blue (or, at least, reverse the unholy red/blue inversion that Tom Delay engineered down there) , I’m sure Dan would appreciate your financial support.