U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action ruling likely won’t impact WA

Affirmative action has been outlawed in the state since 1998, when voters passed Initiative 200.

U.S. Supreme Court

By Donna Gordon Blankinship/Crosscut News Service

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling against race-based admissions at college campuses likely will not have any immediate impact on Washington policy or higher education admissions.

Affirmative action has been outlawed in the state since 1998, when voters passed Initiative 200, which prevents government entities from using race as a factor in hiring or admissions.

But in 2022, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a guidance to state agencies that they should be using whatever tools they have to identify and eradicate discrimination and disparities in their institutions. Inslee’s January 2022 order called the state’s previous guidance on how to comply with Initiative 200 overly restrictive.

In that guidance, the governor asked the Washington Student Achievement Council, which works to encourage Washington students to go to college, to track student success across subpopulations and to gather information about the success of programs designed to address discrimination in higher education.

In a statement after the Supreme Court decision on Thursday, Inslee said, “Our state will continue advancing the cause of equity in higher education and government. As with past rulings from this court that have made our society less equitable for women, people of color, and other marginalized communities, Washington state will respond however necessary to continue advancing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of the arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice.”

Eight other states have also banned affirmative action: Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Oklahoma. Texas joined that group because of a court decision, and other courts have chimed in on affirmative action, contributing to the nation’s patchwork of rules on this issue.

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