Lawyer sees little impact for Champaign

Lawyer sees little impact for Champaign

CHAMPAIGN – A U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down race-based school assignment plans may not have an immediate effect on the Champaign school district, says a lawyer for black families in the district.

Carol Ashley, a Chicago attorney who represents the plaintiffs in the Champaign school district's consent decree case, said she is still reviewing the decision, but believes the district's schools of choice plan is permissible, because the district is still governed by the consent decree.

"Our case is completely different from the two before the court," she said.

Champaign school officials issued a statement that said they are still reviewing the court decision and how it may affect the district's practices. It said the school board will discuss the matter at a public meeting, after they've had the chance to meet with the district's lawyer.

In the cases before the court, the school assignment plans were voluntary. The Jefferson County, Ky., school district, in Louisville, had been subject to a desegregation decree, but it expired in 2000, a year before the district adopted its school assignment plan. The Seattle school district had never been subject to such a decree.

Ashley also noted the Champaign school district went through an adjudication process where the court found there were racial disparities and remedies, such as the schools of choice plan, were justified.

Under Champaign's plan, parents of incoming students select their top three choices for the school their children will attend. Preference is given for schools within a certain geographic proximity. A computer program assigns students to the schools, with the goal of having a racial balance in each school.

The goal is for the number of black students enrolled in each school to be within 15 percent of the percentage of black students enrolled in the district as a whole.

Similarly, the Louisville, Ky., school district plan that was struck down was used to make elementary school assignments. Parents chose their top two schools from several schools within a particular geographic area. The plan used race to ensure black students constituted between 15 percent and 50 percent of the total enrollment for each school.

Once the consent decree expires or is lifted, the Supreme Court decision will have implications for any schools of choice plan in Champaign, Ashley said.

"We would have taken this case into consideration," she said.

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