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21 Berkeley La Raza L.J. 133 (2011)
Erasing Race, Dismissing Class: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez

handle is hein.journals/berklarlj21 and id is 135 raw text is: ERASING RACE, DISMISSING CLASS:
Camille Walsh*
This article examines the culmination of strategic tendencies to combine
demands for recognition of class-based and race-based discrimination in the early
1970s. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez was a pivotal case
during this period. The Rodriguez claimants were low-income children and families
of color whose school district was dramatically unequal in every respect when
compared to the local, wealthy, white school district at issue in the case. The Court
treated, however, the claims of race and class discrimination that the claimants put
forward as entirely independent, and ignored the plaintiffs race claim in order to
focus on class alone, which the Court dismissed as a category not entitled to
constitutional protection. This article argues that the outcome in Rodriguez was
directly tied to legal frameworks that negated the possibility of protecting more than
one constitutional category at the same time. The Court's decision provided an
economic privacy and local fiscal control rationale that solidified the separation of
race and class as categories of constitutional analysis, to the detriment of future
claims at the intersection of race and class remedies for segregated and unequal
Demetrio Rodriguez was six years old when his migrant worker family
moved from a Rio Grande agricultural town to San Antonio in search of better
schools.' Decades later, he continued to seek out better educational opportunities in
*Jerome Hall Postdoctoral Fellow Indiana University Maurer School of Law; B.A. New York University
2000; J.D. Harvard Law School, 2004; Ph.D. University of Oregon 2010. 1 am deeply indebted to the
insights and suggestions of Ellen Herman, James Mohr, Joe Lowndes, Jennifer Erickson and Veta
Schlimgen in reading various drafts of this argument over time. Saru Matambanadzo has commented on
this article in many different stages and her intellectual support in developing these ideas has been
invaluable. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the History and Theory Conference at the
University of California, Irvine and at the University of Oregon Law School, and the comments and
questions of participants were extremely helpful. In addition, I am gratefli to have had the support of the
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation and the Spencer Foundation while performing the early research
for this article, and I appreciate the comments and assistance of the members of the Berkeley La Raza Law
Journal in the final stages. Finally, my late advisor Peggy Pascoe was instrumental in seeing this project
through and I am more thankful than I can express for her consistent mentorship, thorough comments and
patient encouragement.
1. Michael Heise, The Story of San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez: School
Finance, Local Control, and Constitutional Limits, in EDUCATION LAW STORIES 52 (Michael A. Olivas &
Ronna Greff Schneider eds., Foundation Press 2008).

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