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Published in Print: September 30, 1998, as Racial Advisory Panel Highlights Education In Report to President

Racial Advisory Panel Highlights Education In Report to President

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Schools at every level must play an influential role if the nation is to close its racial divide, according to the advisory board President Clinton formed to advise him on race relations.

"If we are successful [in education], fundamental change will follow," the panel of academics, politicians, and civil rights activists says in a report it delivered to Mr. Clinton on Sept. 18.

The panel's proposals break little new ground. In fact, they mirror many of the elements in the education agenda the president has been pushing for the past year.

After more than a year of work, the Race Advisory Board endorsed pieces of Mr. Clinton's agenda now hung up in Congress, including:

  • A school construction initiative that would improve and repair the facilities where children learn.

Mr. Clinton's proposal to spur $22 billion in construction through tax credits is "crucial," the report says. "School construction must be made a national priority," it argues.

  • A program that encourages partnerships between high schools and colleges to introduce minorities to higher education. The president's proposed High Hopes program "is directly on point," but could be expanded by maintaining the support once the students enroll in college, the advisory board suggests. High Hopes is included in a higher education bill that was before a House-Senate conference committee last week.

While the report raises many education issues, it chooses ones that matter to the Clinton administration and ignores others that would challenge its allies in organized labor, according to one conservative critic.

"Where are standards and accountability on that list, to say nothing of school choice?" said Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank in New York City, and a scholar on racial issues. "What does [school construction] have to do with race?"

Access, Language

The report also supports:

  • Affirmative action policies that ensure minorities a chance to enroll in higher education.

The Clinton administration has actively opposed efforts to roll back race-based admissions policies, such as a successful 1996 ballot initiative outlawing racial preferences in public programs in California.

  • Bilingual education that guarantees immigrant children a smooth transition into American society.

The administration campaigned against this year's California ballot initiative that severely restricted native-language instruction throughout the state.

The advisory board also warned of the dangers of "tracking" or separating students according to academic ability early in their school careers.

"Parents of minority students believe that their children are not receiving fair evaluations of their abilities, but instead are disproportionately placed in lower tracks to the detriment of their children's academic careers," the report says.

Vol. 18, Issue 4, Page 19

Related Stories
Web Resources
  • Read remarks by President Clinton on the "High Hopes" Partnerships, from a Jan. 7, 1998 address.
  • Read a description of the "High Hopes" initiative, from the U.S. Dept. of Education.
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