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Thursday, October 02, 2014

U.S. Dep’t of ED issues guidance on resource equity for all students

Sua Sponte: U.S. Dep’t of ED issues guidance on resource equity for all students

In a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, Secretary Arne Duncan has announced Guidance to Ensure All Students Have Equal Access to Educational ResourcesThe guidance, in the form of a “Dear Colleague Letter” (DCL), was  issued by ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and “provides detailed and concrete information to educators on the standards set in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Using Title VI as its enforcement tool, the purpose of OCR ‘s guidance is to provide superintendents and other school district officials with information: (1)regarding the requirements on educational resources, (2) how OCR investigates resource disparities, and (3) what states, school districts and schools can do to meet their obligations to all students. While Title VI does not require that all students receive the same resources, it does require that “all students have equal access to comparable resources in light of their educational needs. “
According to the press release, the new guidance builds on the ED resource equity guidance issued in 2001. The 2001 guidance was in the form of  a DCL from then Secretary Richard Riley. That DCL stated: “A review of some of the existing research and preliminary data indicates that there are substantial disparities between minority and nonrninority students, as well as districts with substantial concentrations of minority students and other districts, in terms of their access to key educational resources.”
Secretary Riley’s DCL also discussed the state of resource equity litigation at that time:
Several recent private lawsuits are pending against several states alleging, in part, that various state actions in the provision of educational resources violate Title VI or its implementing regulations. The United States has participated in several of these cases as amicus curiae, taking the position that Title VI is applicable to these claims, though not reaching the merits of any case. Moreover, several court decisions have affirmed that Title VI applies. These lawsuits challenge various types of state action as being carried out in a discriminatory manner, including the state’s direct provision of resources or funding to school districts, the state’s establishment of state and local funding formulas, and the state’s enforcement, or lack thereof, of state mandates regarding educational resources.
The release also pointed out that the latest guidance also draws upon many of the findings published in the Congressionally-mandated Equity and Excellence Commission’s 2012 report, “For Each and Every Child.” In addition, the guidance responds to these findings by providing details on the requirement that states, school districts and schools distribute resources to students in a fair and equitable manner.
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