Chairman Scott Urges Yes Vote on Strength in Diversity Act
The bill provides funding for voluntary school desegregation initiatives
“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Strength in Diversity Act.
“It has been 66 years since the Supreme Court unanimously struck down public school segregation in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education. In that case, the Court declared that public education, ‘where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.’
“The Court went on to say that ‘in the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.’
“More than six decades later, we have failed to fulfill that promise. According to the Government Accountability Office, our public schools are more segregated today by race and class than at any time since the 1960s. The segregation is actually getting worse, according to the Government Accountability Office.
“School segregation has profound consequences for students. Today, low-income students of color are more likely to attend schools with fewer experienced teachers and resources. In fact, schools serving predominantly students of color face a $23 billion funding gap compared to schools serving predominantly white students.
“We know that integration works. Black students who attend integrated schools have higher test scores and are more likely to graduate from high school, complete college, and even earn higher wages throughout their lives.
“Communities across the country have recognized the importance of school diversity for student success and developed innovative strategies to promote diversity in education. In 2016, dozens of school districts applied for funding under the Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities grant program, which was designed to help schools pursue voluntary, community-driven school integration strategies. Regrettably, one of Secretary Betsy DeVos’s first actions in office was to terminate the program before any money was disbursed.
“The Strength in Diversity Act corrects this action by providing federal support to help school districts develop, implement, or expand efforts to integrate their local schools. The legislation will also shield these resources from the whims of changing Administrations and allow communities to compile best practices for tackling segregation.
“This expertise is critical because of a series of Supreme Court rulings that have been hostile to integration. Most recently, in the Parents Involved case, the Court struck down two voluntary integration plans – one in Louisville, Kentucky and the other in Seattle, Washington. The Court held that using race in desegregation plans is constitutional, but only if the plan is narrowly tailored to address the compelling interest of integrating the public schools. Unfortunately, they ruled in those cases that the plans were not narrowly tailored.
“The Strength in Diversity Act will provide resources so that localities will be able to design plans that will not only be effective but will also be able to withstand constitutional challenges.
“Addressing America’s legacy of racial discrimination is often uncomfortable and complicated. However, we must confront – not ignore – inequities in education if we are to reckon with this legacy and overcome a global pandemic that threatens to worsen achievement gaps.
“Our former colleague, Congressman John Lewis, once stated: ‘[w]hen you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.’
“So, let’s follow his guidance and vote, for the first time in more than three decades, to provide new resources that will help integrate our public schools and fulfill the promise of equity in education.
“I encourage my colleagues to support the Strength in Diversity Act and I thank the gentlelady from Ohio for her distinguished leadership in this legislation. I yield the balance of my time.”
Democratic Press Office, 202-226-0853
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