Reading, ‘Riting and Race

New York Post, December 17, 2012

Is arithmetic racist? Are English and science and art?

These might seem like stupid questions, but—speaking of stupid—a federal judge says the answer is yes, they are, and slapped New York City with a judgment that could cost the school system hundreds of millions.

The case involves a 16-year-old lawsuit, a handful of unqualified teachers who tried to cast their own failures as a civil-rights violation—and the lefty lawyers who have abetted their cause.

Would-be teachers in New York must pass a state exam called the Liberal Arts and Sciences Test, or LAST, to demonstrate a basic grasp of English, math, history and science.

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It’s not asking much. Teachers only have to score 67 percent on the multiple-choice portion, and the questions are absurdly easy. As a former city teacher told The Post, the exam is “high-school level, so anyone with a high-school [diploma] should be able to pass it, regardless of race.”

But that hasn’t been the case. Back in the 1990s, whites passed at far higher rates than blacks and Hispanics.

And when the test was first rolled out, some folks who had been teaching for years were required to take it—but failed.

They were clearly unfit for full-time teaching and were demoted to substitutes, losing salary and seniority.

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So in 1996, some of them turned to activist lawyers and sued the city to have their jobs and pay restored. The case has been kicking around the courts ever since.

Their claim: Since black and Hispanic applicants failed the tests more often than whites, the tests were ipso facto racist.

It’s an embarrassing thing to believe.

The questions on the exam are race-blind and measure basic academic skills. {snip}

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Yet last week, in the latest twist in this 16-year-old case, Judge Kimba Wood found that the LAST had a “disparate impact” on black and Hispanic applicants and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Kimba Wood

Kimba Wood

The city may be held liable by individual teachers who lost pay and seniority—and Wood also demanded that a “special monitor” be appointed to investigate any exams used by the state to license teachers.

That would throw a wrench into the workings of the school system—and would likely saddle it with monumental bills of the kind foisted upon the Fire Department via its special monitor for employing similarly “racist” tests.

The teachers have another court hearing in January to seek compensation.

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