The points made in this article cannot be overstated. The Hecht-Calandra Act may be an unknown, obscure law to many Americans, including New Yorkers. But this law may be the small crack in the armor that allows conservative legal groups to defeat all race-conscious equity schemes.
McAuliffe PTO is just the latest federal case involving Asian American plaintiffs (though funded and orchestrated by conservative legal strategists Edward Blum and the Pacific Legal Foundation) alleging that racial diversity efforts in admissions discriminate against them, and we can expect more such cases to be filed in the future.
Obrian was devastated when he found out he didn’t score high enough on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) to attend Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s most selective high schools. Unlike many of the students who gain admission to the city’s specialized high schools, his family didn’t have the resources to spend thousands of dollars on test prep.
His score on the SHSAT put him just below the cutoff mark for Brooklyn Technical High School. But because of the Discovery Program – which allows students from low-income communities who score just below the standardized test cutoff to earn admission to the specialized high schools – Obrian was able to attend a summer program and then start at Brooklyn Tech his freshman year.
Another attack on NYC’s specialized high school diversity efforts. This is representing attorney Claude M. Millman’s ( Bronx Science ’81 Alumni ) second legal action against the SHSAT reform that I know of.
Previously he represented a coalition of anti-reform protesters in another SHSAT related matter in 2014.
The lawsuit, brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation ostensibly to contest alleged discrimination against Asian American students, targets changes to the city’s expanding Discovery Program. It allows students attending low-income middle schools to receive an offer to one of the city’s elite high schools if they score just below the admissions cut-off on the Specialized High School Admissions Test.
Fortunately, a district judge ruled Feb. 25 that the preliminary injunction the plaintiffs sought to halt the plan was not warranted. But the Pacific Legal Foundation appears prepared to take its case all the way to the U.S.
This week, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative, libertarian-leaning law firm that has a history of challenging affirmative action policies, filed the first lawsuit against his admissions reform proposal, which he announced this summer.
But the suit does not take on the part of Mr. de Blasio’s proposal that has provoked the most controversy: a plan that would entirely eliminate the exam that is currently the sole means of admission into the city’s elite specialized high schools. The mayor wants to replace the test with a system that guarantees seats to top performers at each of the city’s middle schools, which would guarantee that the schools accept many more black and Hispanic students.
In school districts across the nation, talented African Americans and other students of color are denied a fair opportunity to gain access to the life-changing educational experiences provided by specialized schools for high-achieving students and gifted/talented education programs. As a result, elite public schools and programs, which provide key pathways to college and then to leadership locally, regionally, and nationally, are among the most segregated.
In too many school districts, these racial disparities result in large part from admissions policies that rely too heavily or even exclusively on standardized tests, even though the three leading organizations in the area of educational test measurement—the American Psychological Association, the American Educational Research Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education—have concluded that a high-stakes decision with a major impact on a student’s educational opportunities, such as admission to a specialized or gifted/talented program, should not turn on the results of a single test.
The first legal challenge against Hecht-Calandra was launched in 1974. Only 3 years after the law was passed. Since then there’s been a number of legal actions.
Here’s one from 2007.
A public-interest law firm in Washington filed a class-action lawsuit against the New York City Education Department yesterday, charging that a program created to increase the number of black and Hispanic students in the city’s elite specialized high schools violates the Constitution by excluding whites and Asians. The law firm, the Center for Individual Rights, filed the suit in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on behalf of three Chinese-American parents whose children were denied admission to the Specialized High School Institute, which prepares students for the test determining admission to schools like Stuyvesant and the Bronx High School of Science.