On behalf of the three intervening charter schools, Brandon Wait, Executive Director of Paladin Career & Technical High School, submitted the following summary:On June 30th, the Minnesota Court of Appeals heard oral arguments related to Cruz-Guzman and the question certified by the district court:
"Is the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution violated by a racially-imbalanced school system, regardless of the presence of de jure segregation of proof of a causal link between the racial imbalance and the actions of the state?"
As a reminder, plaintiffs in the Cruz-Guzman case are asking the court to declare that segregation, in its own right (regardless of demonstrating intention or causality) violates the rights of Minnesota students who attend “racial isolated schools.” Importantly, Dan Shulman, who spoke on behalf of the plaintiffs, argued that racially isolated charter schools, including those listed below, violate the education clause in the Minnesota constitution simply because of their racial makeup, and regardless of their academic performance.
If the Justices accept Mr. Shulman’s argument, it would present serious consequences for school choice and Minnesota charter schools.
The charter school community (Friendship Academy, Higher Ground Academy, and Paladin) participated in the hearing as Intervenor-Respondents and was represented by attorneys Jack Perry, John Cairns, and Nekima Levy-Armstrong. Jack Perry addressed the court on behalf of the Intervenor-Respondents.
Jack presented arguments on behalf of Minnesota’s charter school community. In particular he was eloquent and persuasive before the three-judge panel defending 1) parent choice; 2) school autonomy; and, 3) the governance structure of charter schools. Jack did an excellent job explaining the success of many charter schools in Minnesota, even those deemed “racially isolated,” and gave a compelling argument that it would be hard to imagine these schools are violating the constitutional rights of their students and families, even as they provide an objectively high-quality education. He also spoke about the accountability and scrutiny that charter schools face and contrasted that with the lack of similar accountability and scrutiny for traditional district schools.
The judges seemed to respond positively to Jack’s arguments and, conversely, appeared to raise serious concerns and questions about the position and claims of the plaintiffs.
That being said, it is impossible to know at this time how the judges will rule in this case. As they typically do, the three-judge panel “took the case under advisement,” meaning they will review all of the filings and briefs, as well as the oral arguments today, and will return in the coming months with a decision in the case.
No matter how the judges rule, the Cruz-Guzman case is far from over, as the ruling in today’s case could be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court and/or the case could be remanded back to the district court where it would precipitate a lengthy and expensive trial covering the facts of the case.
Financial support from the charter school community will be needed in order to continue to successfully defend the interests of charter schools (as Jack and the entire legal team did today), and an appeal for resources will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.