Florida Court Says NAACP Can Challenge Anti-Affirmative Action MeasuresTALLAHASSEE, Fla.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled last month that the NAACP can challenge the governor’s elimination of racial and gender preferences in state university admissions. The 4-3 ruling overturned a 2002 decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that dismissed the civil rights group’s challenge to Gov. Jeb Bush’s “One Florida” program, which eliminated race as a consideration in state college admissions, and “Talented 20” plan, which guaranteed admission to the top 20 percent of each public high school’s graduating class. The governor has said the policy changes, made in 2000, will increase racial diversity in the state’s universities and colleges. The Florida Conferences of Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People argued that the rules were a startling change in policy that could be made only by the Legislature. In September, the Department of Education said minority students made up 34.3 percent of the total enrollment at the 11 schools, up from 32.1 percent in 1998. In last month’s opinion, Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead wrote that the appeals court had gone far beyond a 1980 ruling by the state Supreme Court that outlined the standard for when groups have the right to challenge the actions of government agencies. Anstead also wrote the appeals court had been inconsistent with its own rulings since then because it had allowed environmental groups and professional associations to challenge agency rules. The issue now returns to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The NAACP will move ahead with the case, said Dennis Courtland Hayes, the group’s general counsel. “We continue to believe diversity is worth fighting for,” says Hayes, who called the One Florida policy “wrong-headed and bad for education in this country.”The governor’s office was still reviewing the opinion, but Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said the numbers show One Florida has worked. “We are seeing solid results,” Faraj said, adding that minority students made up 37 percent of the incoming freshman class at the state universities this fall. The percentage of Black university students hasn’t varied much, hovering at 14 percent for the last few years. Statewide, 15 percent of Florida’s population is Black.
— Associated Press
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