Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ferguson is the model for federalizing local schools

Even though the accusations that Ferguson's Police Officer Darren Wilson murdered Michael Brown were false, the Obama Administration used the accusations as an excuse to expand the Federal Government's control over Ferguson's municipal government and police force. The Obama Administration found Wilson to be innocent but then deftly changed the subject to the local Blacks' complaints about traffic tickets. Suddenly the racism accusations were re-aimed toward police officers who issue traffic tickets and toward municipal officials who treat the traffic fines as municipal revenue. The Obama Administration then proceeded to impose a series of new Federal controls onto Ferguson.

Ferguson is merely the first city that will suffer this fate. The Federal Government will follow the Ferguson model in any city where a White police officer is accused of murdering a Black. An FBI team will be rushed to the city to try to develop a case for indicting the officer on Federal charges. The FBI team also collect anecdotal evidence that any local officials ever have sent racist e-mails or that local Blacks are fined disproportionately for traffic violations. No matter whether the police officer ever is convicted, the FBI team will return to Washington DC with enough evidence to justify Federal control of that city's municipal government and police force.


Ferguson is a model also for the Federal Government to take over local education by preventing school board elections.

Wherever some Black is killed by a White police officer, the local Blacks will argue that the local school board is as racist as the local police force. Ferguson has shown that the following three arguments are effective in convincing a Federal judge to cancel all school-board elections:
* The local teachers union endorses relatively few Blacks for school-board seats.

* The town’s Blacks own disproportionately fewer homes and therefore suffer from a “calculus for voting” that results in fewer votes for Black candidates.

* The town’s Black students are subjected to disciplinary actions disproportionately, which is a “particularized need” ignored by the racist school board.
Here is how Ferguson established that legal precedent, which will be applied to other cities' school boards.

The decision by St. Louis County grand jury to not indict Wilson was announced on November 24, 2014. Within the following month, the local NAACP sued the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) because school-board elections are won disproportionately by Whites.

Twenty months later, on August 22, 2016, federal judge Rodney Sippel agreed with the NAACP and stopped all future school-board elections in Ferguson until some new scheme is established that will result in more Blacks winning school-board elections.

Judge Sippel reasoned that Ferguson’s school-board elections are racist because the local teachers union endorses relatively few Blacks for school-board positions. Sippel wrote:
…. the Ferguson-Florissant National Education Association (“FFNEA”) and the North County Labor Club (“NCLC”) are two well-established local slating organizations that endorse candidates for the [School] Board. …. Each of these organizations promotes its endorsed candidates jointly. …. Beyond providing the signaling value of slating candidates, these organizations provide tangible resources to endorsed candidates, including campaign literature, mailing lists, and access to volunteers. ….

African American candidates have less success than white candidates in getting endorsed by these organizations. …. Since 2006, similar numbers of white and Black candidates have run for office and sought FFNEA endorsement. The FFNEA has endorsed eleven of nineteen white candidates (58%) but only three of fifteen African American candidates (20%). ….

Neither FFNEA nor NCLC has written down or shared with the public their criteria for endorsement, and neither organization informs candidates after the fact why they were or were not endorsed.

The District presented credible evidence that the FFNEA endorsement process is open to everyone. … the FFNEA sends a letter to every candidate that files for the District board asking him or her to interview for their endorsement. Once a candidate applies, the FFNEA sends the candidates a list of questions and sets up an appointment time for the interview. The chair of the FFNEA Political Action Committee (“PAC”) is the leader of the endorsement committee and chooses its members. The PAC chair attempts to make the endorsement committee as racially diverse as possible and to include a mixture of males, females, teachers, and support personnel. …. the endorsement committee has been racially diverse for as long as he can remember.

The endorsement committee interviews candidates, asking the questions from the list of questions given ahead of time. No questions are added or omitted, and the questions are usually the same every year. Once the interviews have concluded, the committee discusses each candidate and votes on who to endorse. …. the endorsement decision is based on the candidates’ answers to the interview questions, which are aimed at finding out if the candidate’s interests are aligned with the FFNEA members’ interests.

In 2014, members of the African American community came together to brainstorm about ways to help the District. The group formed a Political Action Committee named “Grade A for Change.” … They decided to interview and recruit more African American candidates to run for the school board. In 2014, three African American candidates ran together under Grade A for Change: [Donna] Paulette-Thurman, [James] Savala, and [Willis] Johnson. Paulette-Thurman was elected to the Board in 2014, but Savala and Johnson were not. Grade A for Change supported the candidates’ campaigns financially and helped with signs and pamphlets. …

…. the testimony shows that all candidates are sent invitations to seek endorsement. It is undisputed, however, that both the FFNEA and the NCLC endorse more white candidates than Black candidates. Moreover, white candidates who are endorsed are more likely to win than African American candidates who receive endorsements. Accordingly, African Americans have much less success than white candidates in receiving the established slating groups’ endorsements, and in that sense, they are largely denied meaningful access to those slating groups.

Pages 106-109
Sippel reasoned also that the current elections are racist because Blacks own less housing and therefore their “calculus of voting” causes them to vote less.
African Americans in FFSD [Ferguson-Florissant School District] continue to bear the effects of past discrimination. …. One can still see once-formalized policies of racial segregation and housing discrimination “inscribed on [the regional] landscape” and that the formalized pattern of segregation by deed covenant had been “written into land use zoning,” which is “still very much the way in which we organize property and housing opportunity in a metro area,” causing officially sanctioned race discrimination and segregation to “persist to the present day.” ….

Housing equity is the principal form of wealth for most families, so barriers to equal opportunity to home ownership that African Americans in St. Louis County have faced for decades have had and continue to have a substantial negative impact on a family’s opportunity to accrue and retain wealth, to get favorable loan terms, to access public services and high-performing schools, and to benefit from increasing property values. … The wealth gap has increased recently “as a result of the last housing bubble and bust.” The wealth gap is one chief driver of continuing (and in some cases widening) disparities between African Americans and whites in FFSD in areas such as educational achievement, level of poverty, employment, and health care. ….

Political scientists who study voting behavior commonly use the “calculus of voting” as a cost benefit framework for determining whether and why individuals, as well as groups of people, do and do not vote. The calculus takes into account the probability that one’s vote will determine the outcome of an election, the benefits of seeing one’s preferred candidate win an election and potentially implement preferred policies, and the costs of voting, including: informing oneself about candidates, completing the administrative process of registering to vote, locating one’s polling place, and getting time off work. …..

This cost-benefit framework “indicates that for many people the decision of whether to vote or not can be a close call, and that . . . relatively small changes in either the benefits or the cost side of the equation can substantially increase or decrease the likelihood of voting in an election.” A small change in benefit or cost has a more pronounced effect on voters with less education and/or less income, and/or who are “less habitual” voters, because for them “it’s a little more difficult to overcome the cost that is associated with registering and turning out to vote, learning about candidates and so forth.” ….

There is ample evidence that the costs of voting are higher and the benefits lower for African American residents of FFSD as compared to white residents. There continue to be undisputed disparities between Black and white residents of FFSD on almost every socioeconomic indicator, including employment, wealth, home-ownership, access to health care, and other factors underlying basic economic security.

There are also undisputed disparities between African American and white FFSD students in educational achievement (including enrollment in advanced classes, the FFSD gifted and talented program, enrichment programs, extracurricular activities) and the application of discipline (including in-school suspensions, out-of-school suspensions, referrals to law enforcement, and corporal punishment).
There also continue to be undisputed disparities between Black and white residents of FFSD in the numbers of law enforcement stops, arrests, fines, and fees. …. “neighborhoods with higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system tend to have lower levels of voter participation.” This occurs because of the resulting “loss of economic resources,” and because criminal justice system involvement “tends to foster more negative attitudes and less trust of local government, which lowers the benefit side of the cost of voting calculation and makes those distrustful individuals less likely to see the benefit of voting in local elections.” Additionally, contact with the criminal justice system causes people “more difficulty engaging in joining in . . . local organizations and social networks that help bring people into local government and local community affairs.”

The turnout rates in FFSD Board elections provide further evidence that African American political participation is depressed. …. factors like home-ownership and education and income are strong predictors of voter turnout. Those factors provide resources that help people overcome the cost side of the calculus of voting and lead to voter turnout. So if there are racial disparities in those factors, they can contribute to racial disparities in political participation as well.”

Likewise, evidence in the record regarding registration rates also supports a finding that African Americans in FFSD are hindered in their ability to participate in the political process. According to Census Bureau data for November 2014, in the state of Missouri, the registration rate for people who identified as Black alone is 67.1%. The registration rate for people identifying themselves as white alone is 72.2%.

Pages 93 – 100
Sippel reasoned also that the current elections are racist because the current election procedures result in School Board members who do not address Blacks’ “particularized needs” to Sippel’s satisfaction.
…. the African American community in FFSD [Ferguson-Florissant School District] has particularized needs, and certain members of the [School] Board have been, at times, unresponsive to those particularized needs. …. There is significant evidence that the African American community in FFSD has particularized needs concerning several issues, including …. the disparate use of school discipline against African American schoolchildren, disparate educational opportunities for African American schoolchildren, and racial profiling by law enforcement.

…. certain members of the [School] Board are or were unaware of the African American community’s particularized needs. Certain Board members testified that they were unaware of any particularized needs, and others testified that they were unaware of socioeconomic disparities, racial profiling, historic discrimination, and the discipline gap. ….

The Board responded poorly to the transfer of Black students into the District, and the Board has done little to respond to discipline and achievement gaps. (… the Board’s emergency closed-meeting decision to decrease class sizes, candidates’ campaigning on this issue, and the Board’s later decisions to decline to provide transportation costs or set a lower tuition rate for these students had “very vocal and nasty” racial overtones and were perceived as “solely” intended “to prevent those kids from transferring to the district”) ….

The African American community in FFSD has particularized needs concerning the Board’s lack of transparency surrounding the suspension of former FFSD superintendent Dr. Art McCoy and its subsequent handling of the community’s response to that decision. It is undisputed that the Board’s decision to suspend Dr. McCoy, the first African American superintendent of FFSD, was contentious and widely opposed by the African American community in the District. There is also strong evidence that members of the African American community were frustrated with the Board because they would not give an explanation for the suspension. Members of the Board testified, however, that they remained silent about the reasons for the suspension because it was Board policy to keep matters private.

Pages 101 – 104
During the trial that led to Judge Sippel's decision, Ferguson's lawyers pointed out that, because of the controversy about the killing of Michael Brown, the Whites on the Ferguson school board informally arranged for a Black candidate, Dr. Courtney Graves, to win a seat. However, this increase in Black representation failed to convince Judge Sippel that the FFSD should be allowed to continue to conduct its own elections. Sippel reasoned that Graves’ victory was an exceptional event that did not disprove Sippel’s general opinion that Ferguson’s school-board elections are racist.
The 2015 election was held six months after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, which led to large-scale demonstrations in the area, ongoing unrest, national attention, and a Department of Justice investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. Michael Brown’s death also had a substantial impact on FFSD itself; a protest was organized by District high school students, schools closed for a week, and counseling was provided to teachers, staff, and students. ….

On March 4, 2015, one month before the 2015 Board election, the Department of Justice released a report detailing the results of its investigation into the Ferguson Police Department. It found extensive discrimination by government officials in Ferguson, including racial bias and intentional discrimination in local law enforcement and municipal court practices, and referenced at least two incidents with school resource officers within FFSD schools. The Department of Justice’s investigative report specifically cited incidents of unconstitutional policing activities within FFSD schools.

The events surrounding the death of Michael Brown and the release of the Department of Justice’s report brought national and local attention to the area. Candidates, and voters more broadly, testified that they were aware of these events and there was some national interest in area elections, including the April 2015 election for the City of Ferguson’s City Council, which was on the ballot for many FFSD voters.

The death of Michael Brown and the local events in its aftermath had an impact on the FFSD 2015 election. It is undisputed that there were get-out-the-vote efforts in the area that may have caused greater rates of voter turnout than usual.

There is evidence that candidate behavior in the local April 2015 elections was affected by the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death. One white candidate chose not to run in the Ferguson city council election as a direct result of the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death. And only one incumbent white candidate ran for a FFSD Board seat; a longtime incumbent white candidate, Schroeder, decided not to run, leaving open a seat. At the same time, Black candidates joined the FFSD candidate pool in direct response to these events. As a result of these events, there was increased interest among African American candidates, and only one major white candidate in the candidate pool.

Voting patterns also changed in 2015. Dr. Graves explicitly encouraged a bullet voting strategy. Dr. Graves won by a “landslide,” there was suddenly a “striking” “surge” in white turnout, and unprecedented white support for Black candidate,” and her victory is due, in partly, to her use of a “single-shot” voting strategy. Such changes suggest the existence of special circumstances. The [School] District argues that the 2015 election was not impacted by special circumstances because Dr. Graves’ victory was the product of demographic changes that have occurred gradually over the past decade, as well as Dr. Graves’ qualifications and excellent campaign strategy.

While there can be little doubt that Dr. Graves ran an effective campaign, it does not diminish the fact that Dr. Graves’ overwhelming level of support was an exceptional occurrence rarely experienced by Black-preferred candidates, and therefore not necessarily evidence of a trend or the African American community’s sudden equal opportunity to elect preferred candidates. As Dr. Engstrom testified, “In my roughly 40 years as an expert witness in voting rights cases, I do not recall a post-litigation election that departed as dramatically from previous elections.”

Moreover, Dr. Graves’ success must be viewed under the totality of the circumstances. Taking the totality of the circumstances into account, I find that Plaintiffs’ explanation that the election was impacted by the events of late 2014, including the death of Michael Brown, subsequent protests, DOJ action, and national news coverage, is more plausible than the District’s argument that there was no such impact.

Pages 70 – 73
The general argument is that local school boards are inherently racist because their members are elected by the local electorates, which are inherently racist. The only solution is for federal judges to overthrow our system in which schools are governed by school boards that are elected by the local population. This racist system will be replaced by a political system in which all schools are governed by the US Department of Education, which is dominated by permanent bureaucrats who are are "social justice warriors", experts in combating racism.

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