Press Releases

Trahan Praises Passage of Bills to Desegregate Schools

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), the only Massachusetts member of Congress on the House Education and Labor Committee, praised the passage of two pieces of legislation, the Strength and Diversity Act and the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, designed to support local communities in their efforts to desegregate public schools and take meaningful steps toward ensuring equity in education. 

“The evidence is clear: unequal access to a quality education persists for Black and Brown Americans at historic levels,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The House Education and Labor Committee has led the way in tackling the issue of racially and socioeconomically segregated schools. These historic bills, which will help fulfill our nation’s promise of equity in education for all students regardless of race or financial circumstances, are the product of that work. I couldn’t be prouder to cast my vote for both pieces of legislation, the first school desegregation bills to pass the House in three decades.” 

More than 66 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, America’s public schools are more segregated than at any time since the 1960s. The segregation of students by race and income has dramatically increased over the past two decades. Between 2000 and 2013 alone, the share of K-12 public schools that were high-poverty and comprised of mostly Black or Hispanic students nearly doubled. 

Segregated schools lead to segregated opportunity. Schools serving predominantly students of color are under-resourced and over-disciplined compared to schools serving predominantly white students. In 2016, schools with predominantly children of color received $23 billion less than schools with predominantly white students, despite serving the same number of children. In the 2015-16 school year, Black children accounted for 15 percent of all students, but 31 percent of referrals to law enforcement and school-based arrests. 

School desegregation is proven to close achievement gaps and produce lifelong benefits by providing students of color with access to the same resources as white students. The most rigorous report to date on school integration showed that Black students who attended desegregated schools throughout their K-12 career were more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, attend a more selective school, and complete college. Additionally, just five years of attending court-ordered desegregated schools significantly increased Black workers’ earnings and significantly reduced their likelihood of experiencing poverty. 

Over the past two days, the House has taken up and passed the Strength and Diversity Act and the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act, two historic pieces of legislation that give students, parents, and schools new tools and more resources to desegregate schools while expanding opportunity for all students. 

The Strength and Diversity Act: 

The Strength in Diversity Act provides funding and expertise to support school districts that are voluntarily developing, implementing, or expanding school diversity initiatives. Currently, many communities across the country are coming up with innovative strategies to desegregate schools and promote diversity. However, many districts lack the resources necessary to meaningfully address school segregation in their communities. 

Through a newly established grant program, this legislation will help fund initiatives such as expanding equitable access to transportation, creating new school programs to attract a more diverse student body, or working with local communities to evaluate and address the causes of racial isolation in their schools.

The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act: 

The Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act restores the power of students and parents to hold schools and other federally funded programs accountable for policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact on students of color. 

Due to a 2001 Supreme Court decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia, only the Department of Education – not the victims of discrimination – can challenge schools and other federally funded programs over policies that have a discriminatory effect on students. 

Under this legislation, the victims of discrimination will once again have the right to challenge discriminatory policies, rather than waiting for Secretary DeVos or any other Education Secretary to act on their behalf.