New York is being sued for doling out grants primarily for certain racial groups to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
A group of education advocacy organizations led by parent Yiatin Chu claims the program’s eligibility requirements are unconstitutional, as they blatantly favor African American, Hispanic, Native American, and Native Alaskan students.
“New York shouldn’t determine who gets the opportunity to attend educational programs based on race,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, Erin Wilcox, who is representing the plaintiffs. “Such race-based decision-making violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and has been shot down at the U.S. Supreme Court numerous times.”
Most recently, in June 2023, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 against Harvard’s discriminatory admission practices.
New York’s STEP (Science and Technology Entry Program) awards grants to middle- and high-school students to study at state universities.
The goal of the program is to “increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students prepared to enter college, and improve their participation rate in mathematics, science, technology, [and] health-related fields.”
In order to be eligible for STEP, students must be either African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American or Alaskan, or low-income.
“STEP’s regulations discriminate based on race and ethnicity,” the lawsuit says. “Black, Hispanic, and Native American, and Alaskan Native student applicants are eligible to apply regardless of their family’s income level. All other student applicants, including Asian and white students, must first prove that their families are economically disadvantaged.
“In other words, the Hispanic child of a multi-millionaire is eligible to apply to STEP, while an Asian American child whose family earns just above the state’s low-income threshold is not, solely because of [their] race or ethnicity.”
Chu, the main plaintiff, notes her 7th-grade daughter is unable to apply for the STEP program because of her race.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, claims the policy violates the Fourteenth Amendment and should be overturned.
“We are committed to requiring the State of New York to live up to its constitutional obligations to treat all students equally, without regard to race or ethnicity,” adds William Jacobson, counsel for the plaintiffs.
“There is no good form of racism, and the State of New York needs to stop this discrimination.”