The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference Education Fund Releases New Report on Education Equity

May 16, 2013 - Posted by Philomena Ogalo

History of Education Equity Litigation Since 1973

In April The Leadership Conference Education Fund released a new report, Reversing the Rising Tide of Inequality: Achieving Educational Equity for Each and Every Child. The Education fund hopes the report will be used as a call-to-action for our nation to heed the findings For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence, issued in February by a panel of leading education experts appointed by Secretary Arne Duncan (aka The Equity and Excellence Commission).

The report examines the history of efforts over the last 40 years to achieve adequate and equitably distributed resources for public schools. The report traces school finance cases in five states – California, New Jersey, Texas, Colorado and Kansas – and documents the struggles in each of these states that continue to this day to address resource deprivation and inequity.

Reversing the Rising Tide proposes concrete steps government officials, foundations and advocacy organizations can take to achieve the bold vision for American public education set forth in the Equity Commission’s report. For example, it proposes ways that national policymakers could boost education equity efforts:

  • Congress should conduct hearings on the impact of fiscal inequity on students in high-poverty schools, while increasing funds targeted to high needs schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Perkins Act.
  • Congress should also reauthorize ESEA and the Perkins Act, holding schools and the local education agency accountable for student outcomes.
  • Lastly, President Obama’s administration should enforce compliance with federal civil rights laws barring discrimination and inequality and should also aggressively enforce equity provisions in ESEA, ensuring they are honored by both state and local education agencies.

In addition to these recommendations to national policymakers, the report included actions that state policymakers, local advocates, and philanthropic organizations can take to “build the public and political will” to create a high-quality education system in the United States.

Michael T. Nettles, senior vice president of the Educational Testing Service’ Center for Policy Evaluation and Research, said in his remarks at the report’s launch event that even though "public education was immensely important to the founding fathers," education is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and “questions of federalism, particularly in school finance, have plagued us ever since.” Thus the last recommendation to national policymakers calls for the U.S. Constitution to be amended to comply with international human rights law by guaranteeing the right to education.

“What’s clear is that we cannot do this alone,” said Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of The Education Fund. “We need people outside the Beltway, in the cities and towns that make up this great country to stand together for their children, or for their neighbor’s children because they see themselves in our struggle; because they recognize that the denial of any child’s right to education is an affront to us all and undermines the very foundation of this nation—that all people, regardless of race, gender, disability, zip code or national origin deserve a quality education and the chance to be the best they can be.”

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