A New Supreme Court Judge: Will It Affect Schools? (page 2)

A New Supreme Court Judge: Will It Affect Schools?

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Updated on Aug 14, 2009

Jennings points out, though, that Sotomayor doesn’t have a particularly extensive record in education, and it’s difficult to speculate with any certainty about future rulings. Some sources say that of her 3,000 or more cases over the past 17 years, only a handful (approximately 1 percent) deal with education.

Barry Bull, Professor of Education Policy Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, agrees that it’s all speculation. But, he says, “she does seem to have a record that favors affirmative action and other efforts that deal with issues in minority communities.”

Bull says an issue that might come up again is voluntary desegregation, also referred to as PICS (Parents Involved in Community Schools). These are efforts to provide mandatory busing or incentives to integrate schools, despite the fact that they haven’t been ordered by courts.

In fact, the courts have so far ruled against desegregation, but Bull says Sotomayor might have a different perspective—one that is more welcoming to these efforts. Casey Cobb, Director of the Center for Education Analysis at the University of Connecticut, agrees. “Any future cases that are heard related to PICS might tip the balance toward permitting more race-conscious school choice policies,” Cobb says, “which is probably a good outcome.”

According to Swail, another issue that could come back again is the use of race-based admissions in higher education. He explains that most universities are currently steering clear of race-based admissions as it has been determined unconstitutional. He predicts, though, that if a case were to come up again, “Sotomayor would act legally, but in the end she’s probably going to be a little more liberal than someone else.”

The bottom line? Many education policy and law experts think Sotomayor’s confirmation is unlikely to have any significant effect on education. “I think the next appointment will be critical,” Swail says. “This appointment sets the stage. Bush was able to put on two conservatives—this one pulls one back to the liberals. It becomes a big issue when a left replaces a right, but I’m not sure how that’s going to play out in the next 3 to 7 years.”

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