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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

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

Education

The nation cannot afford discriminatory barriers that unfairly limit or deny educational access based on factors like race, national origin, sex, or disability. Inequality in education prevents the nation from fulfilling its potential, and ensuring equal educational opportunity remains one of the civil rights movement's top priorities. 

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Healthier Students More Likely to Achieve

August 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of national civil rights organizations that includes the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, says that schools could help close the achievement gap and provide incentives for staying in school by addressing many health issues that disproportionately affect minority and low-income students.

Mandatory physical education, healthy lunches, and information about eating well would contribute to students' physical health and help them excel in school. Students should also have access to properly trained, culturally sensitive mental health professionals in school. School-based health centers, of which there are approximately 1700 in the United States, also provide their students with equal access to primary health care.

More than 23 percent of African-American children between the ages of 12 and 19 were obese in 2006, which is higher than the national average of obese children (17.6 percent). And according to the National Adolescent Health Information Center, African-American and Latino children experience higher rates of depression and suicide.

Children spend seven to eight hours a day in school, more time than they spend anywhere else.  And yet only 53 percent of schools teach students about healthy eating habits and just 18 percent offer fruits and vegetables.

"In the same low-income and minority neighborhoods where most low-performing schools are concentrated, we find extreme disparities in access to quality, affordable health care," said David Goldberg, senior counsel at LCCR.  "Research and common sense make it very clear that poor nutrition and health compound the problems of lower-quality education because sick kids miss more school days, and illness and poor nutrition both sap children of the ability to focus and learn while they are in school."

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Higher Achievement Opens Education Programs in Baltimore

August 24, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

After more than 30 years in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Higher Achievement, an intensive academic after-school and summer program for motivated but underserved middle school children (grades 5-8) has opened two Achievement Centers in Baltimore, Maryland. Higher Achievement extends learning opportunities for middle school youth, guaranteeing motivated students equal access to success in both school and life.

The program has served more than 10,000 children since its founding in 1975 and 95 percent of the students who completed Higher Achievement's full four-year program having gone on to college. The opening of programs in Baltimore is part of Higher Achievement's national expansion.  The Achievement Centers are located in both East and West Baltimore and began their Summer Academies in June. 

"Higher Achievement has proven itself in Washington, raising students' grades and test scores, and raising their goals and expectations for academic success in high school and college," said David Goldberg, LCCR senior counsel.  "The Leadership Conference, along with the Department of Education and many others, has recognized Higher Achievement as one of the nation's best academic enrichment programs and we are excited to support the opening of the Baltimore Achievement Centers."

When school starts this fall, Higher Achievement-Baltimore will launch its After School Academy and is currently recruiting mentors to work with the 5th and 6th grade students for two hours a week during the school year.  For more information, visit www.higherachievement.org, email mentorbaltimore@higherachievement.org, or call 410-752-7753.

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Four Years after Katrina, New Orleans School Enrollment Rising

August 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Public and private school enrollment has risen in New Orleans as authorities continue to repair and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city's education infrastructure four years ago.

Flood damage initially left only 20 of 120 New Orleans public schools intact after the hurricane hit in 2005, making it impossible for many students to continue their education.  Since then, the city has been rebuilding schools in hard-hit areas. According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, 16 new schools opened during the 2008-2009 school year, bringing the total public and private school enrollment in the city to 78 percent of pre-Katrina levels. In addition, all higher education institutions in New Orleans are now open.

The damage to the city's schools was particularly devastating to African Americans. While more than 49 percent of New Orleans school students were African American before Katrina struck, the proportion was at 39 percent as late as the spring of 2007.  African-American enrollment increased to about 43 percent last school year.  Hispanic enrollment has also increased.

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Campaign for High School Equity Weighs in on Common Standards Movement

August 5, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Education officials in 48 states are developing a set of common standards for what American students should learn during each year of their public education.  The Campaign for High School Equity (CHSE), a coalition of civil rights and education organizations that includes the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), is pushing to ensure that the common standards address the needs of communities of color and the nation's achievement gap.

Currently, each state sets its own standards, which means that students living in states with high standards are more likely to be prepared for college and work than students living in states with low standards.  

"It is critical that the new standards are not only higher to raise the bar across the board, but simpler and clearer so that they can be better implemented," said David Goldberg, LCCR senior counsel. "Good implementation means access to high-quality, well-aligned curricula and assessments for all students, regardless of what state, city, school district, or neighborhood they live in."

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California Budget Cuts Will Hit Low-Income Communities Hard

August 3, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that will balance California's $26.3 billion deficit by making massive cuts to public education, health care, and other public services that will have a devastating effect on low-income families in the state.

The $6.1 billion cut to public education will force school districts to fire thousands of teachers  and compel the state's universities and community colleges to raise tuition by 20 percent and cut enrollment by 40,000. The additional tuition fees may put college out of reach for many low-income students. According to the National Report Card on Higher Education, low-income students already devote 40 percent of their income to pay for public four-year colleges, even after financial aid.

The new budget also contains huge cuts to Medi-Cal -- the state's Medicaid program -- and the Healthy Families Program, which currently provides low-cost health insurance to children whose families don't qualify for Medi-Cal.  The cuts will eliminate health insurance for 900,000 children, bring the state total of uninsured children to 1.7 million.

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States to Develop Common Education Standards in Math and English

June 1, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have joined an effort to develop common standards for what American students should learn in English and math each year from kindergarten through 12th grade, a significant step toward national education standards.  Alaska and South Carolina have not yet signed onto the initiative, called the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

A committee of education experts are currently developing the standards, which will be "research and evidence-based, internationally benchmarked, aligned with college and work expectations and include rigorous content and skills," according a press release from the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, who are coordinating the experts' work. 

"Defining standards is only the first step, they must reach all students regardless of the state or community in which they live and the states must commit to implementing them as soon as they are ready," said LCCR Senior Counsel David Goldberg, and a founding partner in the Campaign for High School Equity, a coalition of 10 national civil rights and education organizations that support common standards.

States and territories will have the option of adopting the standards or incorporating them into what they are currently doing.  The first set, focused on making sure high school graduates' reading and math skills prepare them for work and college, will be released in July.  The second set, grade-by-grade benchmarks designed to keep students on track to meet the graduation requirements, will be completed by the end of the year.

"To make the standards meaningful for students, there will have to be new curricula and better assessments aligned to meet them.  The federal government can support the states with funding to make sure they aren't done on the cheap and that there are well-designed versions for English language learners and students with disabilities," said Goldberg.

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California School Districts Can Consider Racial Makeup of Neighborhoods in School Assignments

April 10, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

In a unanimous decision, a state appeals court ruled recently that a Berkeley Unified School District diversity plan that considers neighborhood racial composition for student placement does not violate Proposition 209.

Proposition 209, voted into law in 1996, is an amendment to the California constitution that bans the consideration of race, gender, ethnicity, and national origin in public hiring, contracting, and admissions to public colleges and universities.

The Berkeley policy considers the racial makeup of neighborhoods as one factor in determining which school in the district a student will attend. The school district also considers two other factors – average household income and average education level of adults in the neighborhood where the student lives.

The court said that the policy does not violate Proposition 209 because "all students in a given residential area are treated equally – regardless of the student's individual race or other personal characteristics."

The decision, though likely to be appealed to the California Supreme Court, is positive for supporters of equal opportunity and provides school districts with some flexibility in ensuring that their schools are diverse.

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Texas Considers Bill to Cap College Admits under Top 10 Percent Plan

April 1, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

The Texas House of Representatives is considering a bill that would cap the number of students accepted into state universities under the state's "top 10 percent plan."

In 1997, the Texas legislature passed a law that requires Texas state universities to automatically admit Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

The current bill, which passed in the Senate last week, will still require state universities to admit students under the plan, but it will allow them to cap these admissions at 60 percent of the incoming freshman class.

Some college administrators support the bill because it will give them more flexibility in admissions.  However, if passed, the bill will mostly affect the University of Texas-Austin, which estimates that almost 90 percent of its incoming freshmen class next year will be admitted under the plan. 

Originally intended to address the decline in minority enrollment and create equal opportunity for students from both inner-city and rural schools, the "top 10 percent plan" was enacted after a federal appeals court decision in Hopwood v. Texas banned equal opportunity programs in Texas. However, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, stated that race can be used as one of many factors in college admissions, invalidating Hopwood.

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Students Rally in Washington, D.C., for Workers' Rights and Affordable Education

March 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Students marching, holding a sign that reads,

Students march toward the Capitol in Washington, D.C., for a USSA/SLAP rally.

Yesterday, students from around the country showed their support for greater protections for students and workers and affordable education for all people at a rally held by the United States Student Association (USSA) and the Student Labor Action Project.

Hundreds of students marched from L'Enfant Plaza to Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., shouting cheers for policymakers to consider increasing federal financial aid for college and lowering student loan debt.  Many held signs that read "Education is a Right" and "Students and Workers Unite for Justice." 

A few policymakers spoke at the Capitol, but the most impassioned speech came from Sen. Richard Durbin, D. Ill., who expressed strong support for the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants who want to go to college or serve in the U.S. military.

The rally is part of USSA's 40th Annual Grassroots Legislative Conference and the Student Labor Week of Action.

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Civil Rights Advocates Respond to Obama's Education Reform Strategy

March 12, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

On Tuesday, President Obama announced his strategy for reforming education in the U.S.

In yesterday's segment of "The Diane Rehm Show", two LCCR coalition members – Dianne Piche, executive director of the Citizen's Commission for Civil Rights, and Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association – reacted to Obama's education agenda and discussed some of the issues around reforming education in the U.S., such as teacher layoffs, the high school dropout problem, charter schools, teacher compensation, and removal of ineffective teachers. 

Diane Rehm also interviewed Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, about Obama's education agenda.

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