White Boston Students Allege Discrimination

BOSTON -- Twenty-five years after court-ordered busing tore this city apart, the parents of four white children and a local advocacy group yesterday filed a lawsuit against Boston public schools alleging reverse discrimination and calling for an immediate end to race-based student admissions.

The lawsuit was filed here in U.S. District Court even as federal courts dismantle school desegregation plans nationwide and as Boston prepares for the possible demise of its own system with the eventual reintroduction of neighborhood-based schools. But that day will come too late for those children recently denied admittance to their preferred classrooms, said attorney Chester Darling.

The mother of one 8-year-old boy assigned to his second-choice school was told by school authorities that he was "not sufficiently Native American" to qualify for his first choice, according to the lawsuit. Another child, also white, was placed on a waiting list. "It's a quota system. It's rigidly enforced and constitutionally impermissible," Darling said. "You cannot withhold or provide a benefit based on race anymore."

City officials declined comment.

Boston public schools assign children under a "controlled choice" policy that considers school preference and race, among other factors. However, the city has adopted a race-blind admissions policy for its three most celebrated high schools after a successful court challenge last year by a student who claimed she was unfairly denied admission to her top choice because she was white.

Florida Vouchers Now Law

MIAMI -- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation making the state the first in the nation to offer a statewide program of vouchers to help parents of students in failing schools offset the cost of private education.

Florida's House and Senate approved the controversial plan in April. It fulfills a major campaign promise made by Bush during his run for governor last fall.

Opponents, which include the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have promised lawsuits. They say a provision that would allow parents to transfer children into religious schools violates a constitutional prohibition against public funding of religious institutions.

Critics also warn that the program will siphon off much-needed funding as well as the most promising students from failing schools.

The measure assigns grades from A to F to each of Florida's public schools, based on standardized test scores. Schools scoring well would qualify for additional state funding.

Students in schools rated "F" for two years out of four would be allowed to transfer to another public school or accept vouchers worth up to $4,000 to help offset private tuition. Church-run schools accepting voucher students could not require prayer.

While Florida has ranked near the bottom historically of states in standardized test scores and education funding, only students in Florida's worst schools would qualify for vouchers.

At present, only four schools in the state would qualify. Officials have said that as many as 169 schools could be added to the list as state educators raise the academic bar.