Chairman Scott Urges Yes Vote on Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act
The bill restores the right of students and parents to hold schools accountable for discrimination in education
“Madam Speaker, today I rise in support of the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act—this legislation will restore the right of students and parents to address racial inequities in public education.
“This legislation comes over 66 years after the Supreme Court ruled in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case that “in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”
“And this comes four years after the Government Accountability Office found that racial segregation in public schools is now as bad as it was in the 1960s and getting worse.
“For almost forty years, courts interpreted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) as granting students and parents the right to bring discrimination claims against public schools, and any other entities receiving federal funds, for discriminatory policies and practices.
“Victims of federally funded discrimination could use Title VI to challenge both discriminatory policies and practices that were created with the intent to discriminate and policies and practices that, while neutral on their face, had the effect of discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
“To be clear, the mere presence of a policy’s disproportionate impact does not, alone, constitute a violation of Title VI. But allowing communities to use disparate impact analyses equipped them with an important tool to combat systemic inequities for decades.
“Unfortunately, in its 2001 decision in the case of Alexander v. Sandoval, the Supreme Court stripped private citizens, including students and parents, of their right to bring disparate impact claims against schools and other federally funded programs. While this ruling did not invalidate the use of disparate impact analysis to prove discrimination, it reserved that power to pursue such claims to the federal government through administrative enforcement of Title VI. In other words, this long-standing protection against discrimination in federally funded programs, including education, can now only be enforced if the administration in power so chooses.
“The effect of this ruling on anti-discrimination enforcement has been particularly acute in education. Since 2001, we’ve seen an increase in racial isolation in public schools and a decrease in resource equity. As a result, African American and Hispanic children disproportionally attend schools that are both majority-minority, and under resourced.
“Whether this trend has been intentional, or not, is immaterial. But we do know that discrimination in 2020 is not the same as it was in 1964. Discrimination increasingly comes in the form of coded terminology, structural inequality, and implicit biases – rather than explicit bigotry. So, students and parents must be empowered to hold schools accountable for policies and practices that deny students access to a quality education based on their race, color, or national origin, whether or not they can prove that discriminatory policies were intentionally imposed.
“Understandably, parents and students have been expressing confusion and frustration because they can no longer use the Civil Rights Act to challenge discriminatory policies and practices in their schools. By ceding this right to the federal government, the Supreme Court majority in Sandoval opened the door to civil rights enforcement becoming a political issue, instead of a right. While the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education is staffed with career attorneys, it is led by a political appointee. This Department has repeatedly shown its reluctance to enforce and defend the civil rights of all students
“Our core civil rights protections should not be up for a vote every four years.
“To that end, the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act would restore the private right of action for students and parents to bring Title VI discrimination claims based on disparate impact and hold schools accountable for providing equal access to quality education for all students.
“The legislation also requires school districts and institutions of higher learning to appoint a Title VI monitor to ensure there is at least one employee responsible for ensuring compliance with the law. This includes, at a minimum, investigating complaints of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. This provision in the bill is modeled after Title XI officers in school settings. The legislation’s aim is for Title VI monitors to foster a culture of compliance similar to what we now have under Title IX.
“Finally, the bill creates an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Education to coordinate and promote Title VI compliance.
“History has shown that we cannot support historically disadvantaged students or close persistent achievement gaps without robust civil rights enforcement. This is particularly true as public schools become more segregated, and as segregated as they were in the 1960s, and as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates inequitable access to quality education for underserved students.
“Today, we have the opportunity to restore and strengthen critical civil rights protections by passing the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act.
“Nearly seven decades after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down school segregation, this bill would bring us one step closer to delivering on its promise of equity in education.
“I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and I reserve the balance of my time."
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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