Civil Rights, Education Groups to Congress: Correct DeVos' Approval of Unlawful ESSA Plans

WASHINGTON—The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 16 civil rights and education groups urged key members of Congress to fulfill their oversight responsibility of the Department of Education’s implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The groups ask the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce to correct the Department of Education’s flawed approval of state plans that do not comply with core equity provisions of the law.

During the past year, civil rights and education groups have urged Secretary Betsy DeVos to review state plans and approve only those that complied with the law, especially the provisions related to the education of historically marginalized students. Today, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released data that show the continued result of unequal educational opportunity for marginalized students. The findings reinforce the need for urgent and robust actions to address racial disparities.

The groups write:

“During the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2015, you made the decision to give states greater discretion to construct their own accountability systems to ensure all students received the attention and support they needed. Unfortunately, states have squandered that opportunity and their obligation to design accountability systems that hold all schools accountable for the performance of all children. More than simply a missed opportunity, these failures violate the law.” The letter continues, “We are deeply troubled by the U.S. Department of Education’s failure to approve only those state plans that comply with the law.”

The groups call on the committees to hold oversight hearings on, and correct the department’s approval of, noncompliant plans, arguing that the “failure to do so will only undermine ESSA’s potential and continue to confine the millions of historically marginalized children to a low-quality education.”

The letter can be read here.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.


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