PHOENIX A key attorney involved in an anti-preference ballot measure says that if it becomes law, he'll use it to try to end the admissions policies at the magnet schools in the Tucson Unified School District.
Clint Bolick said the initiative clearly would make it illegal for any government agency to use race in its decision-making process. That's exactly what's happening when minority students are denied admission to certain schools, he said.
And Bolick a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Phoenix called the magnet program "the poster child for why this initiative is required."
But attorney Richard Yetwin, who represents TUSD, said any state constitutional amendment would be legally meaningless in terms of overturning the policies.
He said TUSD's magnet programs were set up to comply with a federal court order to desegregate the district's schools. And Yetwin said the court specifically approved creating the magnet schools with special programs to attract Anglo students into inner-city schools.
That policy, Bolick said, amounts to illegal discrimination.
"Minority kids who are intended to be the beneficiaries (of the desegregation order) are turned away from the magnet schools," he said.
The district has been trying to get that decree lifted. And Yetwin acknowledged that once that happens, any race-based preferences on school admissions might be subject to legal challenge.
The initiative, being planned for the 2008 ballot, would outlaw discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, contracting or education. Backers will need more than 230,000 signatures by July 2008 to put the issue before voters.
Bolick said he believes that if the initiative becomes law, it won't be necessary to wait until the federal court dissolves the original order. He said the reasons behind that nearly 30-year-old order no longer are valid.
"Racial parameters are a starting point and are not intended to exist in perpetuity, even over the life of the decree," Bolick said.
Bolick said that once he sues assuming the initiative becomes law then the burden would fall on the school district to justify the discrimination.