Toward a Theory of Equitable Federated Regionalism in Public Education


School quality and resources vary dramatically across school district boundary lines. Students who live mere miles apart have access to disparate educational opportunities based on which side of a school district boundary line their home is located. Owing in large part to metropolitan fragmentation, most school districts and the larger localities in which they are situated are segregated by race and class. Further, because of a strong ideological preference for localism in public education, local government law structures in most states do not require or even encourage collaboration between school districts in order to address disparities between them. As a result, the combination of metropolitan fragmentation and localism in public education leads to the exclusion of poor and minority students from access to high-quality school districts, which are largely clustered in more affluent and predominately white localities.

This Article contends that, given the race- and class-based exclusionary effects that metropolitan fragmentation and localism have on public education, the time has come to reconsider the wholesale commitment to localism in public education. It suggests that in some instances, the dissemination of public education should be made on a regional basis rather than a local basis. It examines how enacting regionalism—a theoretical framework, which advocates for the installment of regional governance structures—might occur in public education. Borrowing from two specific theories of regionalism, equitable regionalism and federated regionalism, it proposes a framework entitled “Equitable Federated Regionalism” for disseminating public education on a regional basis. It suggests that enacting Equitable Federated Regionalism as a form of state law reform would help to ameliorate current disparities in public education that occur along the basis of race and class.

About the Author

Erika K. Wilson is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law. She holds a B.S. from the University of Southern California and a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law.

By uclalaw