International human rights and the University of Texas affirmative action case: PRRAC joined with Human Rights Advocates in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, arguing that the Court should consult international human rights standards – particularly the U.S.-ratified Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – in assessing the constitutionality of the University’s carefully crafted, race conscious college admissions system. Our amicus brief was one of almost 50 briefs supporting the University of Texas admissions plan – including briefs summarizing recent social science research on the benefits of diversity for all students and the importance of carefully tailored affirmative action programs in overcoming obstacles to opportunity in higher education. Collectively, these briefs urge the Court to maintain the existing precedent in the Michigan Law School case, Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), which was also endorsed in the K-12 context in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (2007) – with both cases supporting the principle that diversity is a compelling government interest under the Constitution. All of the amicus briefs are collected at www.utexas.edu/vp/irla/Fisher-V-Texas.html. The Fisher case will be argued on October 10.
King County Housing Authority adopts policy on opportunity neighborhoods: Earlier this month, the Board of Commissioners of the King County Housing Authority in Washington State adopted a policy to “give strong consideration to Opportunity Neighborhood indicators, such as education, employment, access to food, parks and transportation, when acquiring new properties, placing project-based Section 8 subsidies and developing mobility counseling and other programs and to integrate these criteria into decision making on these programs to the maximum extent possible.” The Opportunity Mapping Project in the Seattle area was initially seeded by a $10,000 grant from the PRRAC “Small Grants Program” to the Northwest Justice Project and the Kirwan Institute (this was one of 11 Seattle-area advocacy research grants we gave out in 2009, courtesy of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation). The initial mapping work was unveiled at a PRRAC-sponsored conference at Seattle University in 2010, and attracted the attention of the Northwest Area Foundation, which contributed additional funding to substantially expand the project. The King County opportunity maps have also been incorporated into the Seattle region’s HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative. The Housing Authority’s new policy is a great example of the catalyst value of PRRAC’s Small Grants program – which has sponsored over 120 research/advocacy projects since the mid-1990s, but which is currently unfunded.
Potential Sources of Funding for Housing Mobility Counseling Programs (August 2012): our new Policy Brief is excerpted from the forthcoming PRRAC/Urban Institute report and toolkit, Expanding Choice: Practical Strategies for Building a Successful Housing Mobility Program.
Other News and Resources
Another victory in the Texas Low Income Housing Tax Credit case: Following up on its liability ruling for the plaintiffs last March, the U.S. District Court in Dallas has adopted a remedial order in the case of Inclusive Communities Project v. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, that requires the agency to take steps to create a more equitable balance in the allocation of credits so that low income families have access to affordable housing developed under the LIHTC in less racially isolated communities with better schools and public amenities in the Dallas metropolitan area. The agency also has indicated a desire to implement many elements of the remedial order statewide through the state’s Qualified Allocation Plan, which also includes more meaningful guidelines for developments located in high poverty neighborhoods to ensure that they are located consistent with a comprehensive community development plan in those areas. The decision can be accessed here.
Richard Rothstein in the American Prospect – on “school choice” and housing segregation: “Delegates booed Mitt Romney at this year’s NAACP convention, as they had booed another Romney 43 years earlier. The speaker then was Mitt’s father, newly installed as President Richard Nixon’s secretary for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Delegates were furious about an administration plan to waive deadlines for Southern school districts to desegregate. In the next year, however, George Romney launched an ambitious program to overwhelm white resistance and integrate the suburbs-not by busing schoolchildren but by forcing suburbs to accept black residents. The son has also made a seemingly bold proposal to address the achievement gap: Low-income and special-education students should be allowed to transfer to any public school in their state. But Mitt’s proposal is more shadow than substance. The differing approaches of George and Mitt to the ongoing national embarrassment of racial segregation mark how far we have come in abandoning the civil-rights era’s modest dreams and how far we must go to reignite them.” Read more – “The Cost of Living Apart” (by Richard Rothstein and Mark Santow)
5th National Immigrant Integration Conference, September 22-25 in Baltimore – see for more details.