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Congressman John Conyers

Representing the 13th District of Michigan

Conyers, Scott Unveil New GAO Report on Segregation in Public Schools

May 17, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C.Committee on the Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) and  Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) unveiled the findings of a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on actions needed to reduce racial and socioeconomic segregation, and address disparities in K-12 public schools. Ranking Members Conyers and Scott, along with retired Congressman and former Ranking Member George Miller, first requested this report in May 2014.

Sixty-two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down lawful school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education decision, stating that “it is doubtful that any child may reasonable be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education” The decision also affirmed that education was a right that “must be made available to all on equal terms.” GAO gathered data for this report from the Department of Education and confirmed that increasing segregation along the lines of race and poverty continue to be a driver for inequities in education. Despite Brown’s affirmation that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” our system of public education remains largely separate and largely unequal.

“This GAO report confirms what has long been feared and proves that current barriers against educational equality are eerily similar to those fought during the civil rights movement,” said Rep. John Conyers. “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century. Congress and the federal government, as well as state and local agencies, must ensure all children receive access to equal education at all publicly funded schools.”

“Sixty-two years later, here we are in 2016 facing an overwhelming failure to fulfil the promise of Brown in realizing equality in educational opportunity for all students,” said Rep. Bobby Scott. “In May of 2014, I, along with Ranking Member Conyers and former Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member George Miller, requested that the GAO examine racial and socioeconomic isolation in K-12 public schools, and the resulting impact on educational equity. The report resulting from this inquiry confirms a growing and persistent body of research. The GAO report confirms that our nation’s schools are, in fact, largely segregated by race and class. What’s more troubling, is that segregation in public K12 schools isn’t getting better; it's getting worse, and getting worse quickly, with more than 20 million students of color now attending racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools. This report is a national call to action, and I intend to ensure Congress is part of the solution.”

“Equal educational opportunity is too critical to our nation’s future to allow persistent disparities adversely affecting minority groups to continue,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).  “Unjustified and significant educational disparities must be challengeable by private individuals; the Department of Education simply cannot provide the consistent and broad enforcement necessary for such a pivotal concern.”

Nearly a half-century of research shows that segregation negatively impacts student outcomes and exacerbates unequal opportunity experienced later in life. GAO data from the Department of Education confirmed that race and poverty continue to be driver for inequities in education and that housing segregation patterns contribute to school segregation.

“This report shines a light on worsening educational inequities that cannot be divorced from our nation's legacy of racial discrimination that has perpetuated racial and socioeconomic isolation,” said NAACP President and Director Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill. “It is our imperative on the 62nd anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education to ask, ‘How will we act to address current disparities like resource inequities and discriminatory discipline practices?’ We must ensure that interventions address the intersectional nature of racial discrimination in areas like housing and economics that impact educational opportunities and outcomes.”

“The findings of GAO confirm what we know to be true: that the promise of Brown remains a promise that has gone largely unfulfilled,” said National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial. “In too many communities, students of color are now more segregated with less access to equitable educational opportunities than in decades prior. Collectively, we can and must do better. This is why the National Urban League and our network of local leaders remains dedicated to partnering with state and school district leaders to seize on the opportunity presented by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); to turn the ship and reverse the trend of racial and socioeconomic isolation in public K-12 education. I look forward to continued collaboration with Congress to ensure that government at all levels is acting to right this egregious wrong and bring us closer to fulfilling Brown’s promise.”

Reps. Conyers and Scott introduced the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, legislation to empower parents and communities to address – through robust enforcement – racial inequities in public education.

REPORT:          K-12 Education: Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination