REPORT: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Challenges Congress to Tackle Inequity in America’s Schools

By Kenrya Rankin Jan 11, 2018

A new report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights—an independent, bipartisan agency created by Congress—says that inequitable distribution of education funding combined with highly segregated schools puts students of color and kids living in low-income households at a major disadvantage.

From the report, titled "Public Education Funding Inequity: In An Era of Increasing Concentration of Poverty and Resegregation”:

Low-income students and students of color are often relegated to low-quality school facilities that lack equitable access to teachers, instructional materials, technology and technology support, critical facilities and physical maintenance. These absences can negatively impact a student’s health and ability to be attentive and can exacerbate existing inequities in student outcomes.

Notwithstanding decades of scholarly research, litigation and periodic Congressional action, school finance inequity is a standard feature of American public schooling and low-income students and students of color disproportionately live its consequences.

Many schools continue to experience racial segregation, including 77 percent of Hispanic students and 73 percent of Black students attending schools that are majority students of color. Poverty is strongly linked with enrollment of students of color in schools, causing many racially segregated schools to experience “double segregation” by both race/ethnicity and concentrated poverty.

The commission’s eight members write that the current state of public education is teaching future generations that inequality is acceptable, and that the federal government must work to “eradicate the reality and consequence of school finance inequity, ensuring in fact that education is a right available to all on equal terms.”

To that end, the group ends the report with several recommendations for Congress:

Incentivize states to adopt equitable public school finance systems that provide meaningful educational opportunity, promote student achievement for all students and close achievement gaps where they exist;

Incentivize states to ensure adequate funding for students with disabilities, without incentivizing classifying students into special education;

Incentivize states to invest in facilities which can help to provide an equitable environment for students to achieve;

Increase federal funding to supplement state funding with a goal to provide meaningful educational opportunity on an equitable basis to all students in the nation’s public schools;

Promote the collection, monitoring and evaluation of school spending data to determine how funds are most effectively spent to promote positive student outcomes;

Develop mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of federal spending on enhancing student achievement and closing achievement gaps; and

Make clear that there is a federal right to a public education.

Read the full briefing report, which was delivered to the White House and both houses of Congress today (January 11), here.