I live in a state that has a law that is, simply put, uniquely Texas. It is a result of Texas’ HB 588 that was signed into law in 1997 after the University of Texas lost its court case when it defended its affirmative action policy in Hopwood vs. University of Texas.
Hopwood was a case where four white applicants were refused admission to the UT School of Law because UT was required to admit students who had lower grades and test scores, but because of their race, and UT’s policy to promote racial diversity, were admitted.
The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case in 1996.
As a result, the legislature sought to guarantee racial diversity in a new untried way and passed HB 588. This law simply guaranteed admission to any Texas university to any student who graduated in the top 10% of their class.
This put all schools on an equal footing.
Unfortunately, unlike man, not all schools are created equal. Some schools and school districts are poor performers and some are high performers. So it stands to reason that students from a high performing school who graduate in the next 10% below the top, will not be admitted to the University of Texas, but had they graduated from a school composed lower performing students and teachers, they would have gained admission.
And this was not lost on some people as a study by Kalena E. Cortes, entitled Ranking Up by Moving Out: The Effect of the Texas Top 10% Plan on Property Values reveals. As discussed in this Rick Casey article at the Houston Chronicle, parents who live in districts or school zones of schools with a larger number of high performing students simply do what would seem to be counter-intuitive: intentionally seek out the low-performing districts, the low-performing schools, and buy houses within their attendance zones.
This at least assures better success in the college application process. A mediocre student who wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks of attending UT suddenly becomes class valedictorian at a low-performance school.
And this has a couple of twists of irony that are too sweet not to mention.
Not only do property values go up in low-performance school attendance zones, students who would normally be more academically challenged at a high-performance school ironically are less well-prepared at the low performance school, even though their grades don’t reflect that.
And there is yet one more ironical twist.
Even though the Supreme Court refused to hear Hopwood, making HB 588 a necessity, seven years later in deciding Grutter v. Bollinger, the principles set forth by Hopwood were completely done away with. At that time the Supremes ruled that the US Constitution doesn’t prohibit affirmative action policies.
But this is the system that we in Texas have saddled ourselves with, all in the name of four white people who didn’t like it when we had a level playing field.
They just wanted to get into Law School. Instead they wound up raising property values in depressed areas, warping the educational system, and degrading college readiness of admitted students.