The courts, not lawmakers, will decide if Minnesota is guilty of segregating students

The significant Minnesota Supreme Court ruling was announced on Wednesday.
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Whether the State of Minnesota has been denying minority students an adequate education by segregating them into lower-performing schools will be the matter of the courts to decide, not state legislators.

The landmark Minnesota Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday is the latest development in a three-year-long battle waged by a number of Twin Cities parents, who accuse the state of enabling a school system that segregates students of color and from low-income families into worse schools.

This, they argue, violates their constitutional rights to an "adequate education," but the state had responded by saying determining what an "adequate education" is should be a matter for the Minnesota Legislature, not the courts.

The Supreme Court agreed with the parents, reversing an earlier Appeals Court decision that sided with the state, which means the case can proceed in the courts.

The court's opinion said that "separation-of-powers principles do not prevent the judiciary from ruling on whether the Legislature has violated its duty under the Education Clause," or violated equal protection clauses in the Minnesota Constitution.

The initial lawsuit was brought in 2015 by parents of students in the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts.

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They argued that the schools that their children and other school-age children attend are "disproportionately comprised of students of color and students living in poverty, as compared with a number of neighboring and surrounding schools and districts."

These schools are "racially and socioeconomically segregated," they argued, making them unequal to the "neighboring and surrounding whiter and more affluent suburban schools."

They cited examples boundary decisions and school attendance areas, the formation of segregated charter schools and the decision to exempt them from desegregation plans, and the use of federal and state desegregation funds as contributing to segregation within city schools.

The Supreme Court has not made any judgment on whether the state has contributed to segregation in schools. It only ruled that the courts is equipped to make such a decision in the future.

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