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U.S. Department of Education Releases Report on State of School Diversity, Announces New Grant Opportunity

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This week, as the nation commemorates the 69th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education unanimous Supreme Court ruling that declared racially segregated schools unequal and unconstitutional, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) is releasing a new report on the state of diversity within America’s schools. Based on currently available Department data and a review of educational and economic research, the report finds that progress toward increased racial and socio-economic diversity has stalled in many communities as segregation patterns have persisted, leading to inequitable access and outcomes for students. Diverse schools benefit all students, helping to foster performance and success through improved academic achievement, social mobility, civic engagement, empathy, and understanding. The Department also recently released a Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for the first-ever Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Program, which will award $10 million to local and state agencies to voluntarily develop or implement plans to increase diversity in schools.

The State of School Diversity report responds to a Congressional directive asking the Department to examine and publicly release information on racial and economic segregation within the United States’ K-12 educational systems using existing Department data. Report includes data that shows students of color disproportionately attend schools with majority students of color populations. According to federal data, three in five Black and Latino students and two in five American Indian/Alaska Native students attend schools where at least 75% of students are students of color, whereas about half of white students attend schools in which students of color make up less than 25% of the student population. Despite research suggesting the wide-ranging benefits associated with attending racially and socioeconomically integrated schools, isolation in schools continues.

“Nearly 70 years after the Brown v. Board decision declared segregation in our public schools unconstitutional, we cannot ignore the powerful role that race, place, and income continue to play in access to educational opportunity in America,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “At a time when some are trying to turn ‘equity’ into a bad word, we must recognize that the racial and socioeconomic isolation that persists in our public schools undermines our national competitiveness by denying students of all backgrounds the rich educational experiences that result from diverse learning environments. I am proud that, as we commemorate 69 years since Brown, the Biden-Harris Administration is launching a new grant program to support innovative, voluntary local efforts aimed at building more socioeconomically diverse school communities and raising the bar for all students.”

Schools that are isolated along racial or socioeconomic lines often have less access to critical resources and funding. These conditions can perpetuate gaps in opportunity that can limit the chance for underserved students to grow and excel academically. The Biden-Harris Administration has put academic acceleration at the forefront of its agenda, with record levels of investment in K-12 schools since day one, and is committed to efforts to champion and promote diverse schools through grant funding to help fuel voluntary and legal efforts to create plans and implement strategies to increase diversity in classrooms in schools. Well-designed efforts to improve school diversity can increase access to critical resources students need to succeed, such as experienced educators and advanced coursework. Every student should have access to high-quality learning experiences, and diverse schools can help enable them to happen.

The new Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration program will provide students with access to a well-rounded education and improve school conditions for student learning by voluntarily developing or implementing comprehensive plans for increasing school socioeconomic diversity in preschool through grade 12. The Department invites applicants to submit locally tailored plans to encourage socioeconomic diversity in schools, courses, and programs. Applicants may also propose to voluntarily foster diversity more broadly by considering legally permissible strategies for promoting diversity as it relates to factors such as race/ethnicity, culture, and geography.

The actions of the Department of Education to increase diversity in schools through investments, accountability, oversight, civil rights enforcement, and ongoing technical support remain pivotal. The Department continues to encourage states and districts to renew efforts to provide more equitable access to the important resources that we know make a difference in educational opportunity and outcomes–including high-quality and experienced educators, early childhood education, rigorous coursework, and equitable and adequate school funding.

This report and the NIA are part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to implement President Biden’s Day One Executive Order to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities across the federal government and build our schools and communities back better than before the pandemic.

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights has long shared guidance, available in multiple languages, regarding civil rights obligations in school communities that receive federal funds to ensure that they make education equally available to all students.

The State of School Diversity report can be found here, and the Notice Inviting Applications for the Fostering Diverse Schools demonstration program can be found here.


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