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Black Caucus Dumps Trump Meeting, Says DeVos Won’t Protect Civil Rights

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 22, 2017 2 min read
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The Congressional Black Caucus has decided not to keep talks going with President Donald Trump, and issues like school diversity and civil rights are part of the reason why.

In a Wednesday letter to the president, the 49-member caucus said it was declining the Trump administration’s offer to meet with the president again—caucus leaders huddled with Trump at the White House in March. The letter points to a number of areas where the Trump administration ignored the group’s input, and says that the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2018 would “devastate” the communities represented by the CBC.

“Secretary [of Education Betsy] DeVos has also refused to protect children from being discriminated against,” Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., the chairman of the caucus, wrote to Trump, “and terminated an Obama administration program focused on improving school diversity and student achievement in the lowest-performing schools across this country.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new approach to civil rights complaints in a memo to office for civil rights regional field offices. The memo stated that unless an individual complaint states otherwise, it won’t be considered as part of a potentially broader pattern of discrimination or other violation of civil rights.

The Education Department said this would cut down on the backlog of civil rights complaints that grew during the Obama administration and make the process more efficient, not weaker. But critics charged that the move would weaken federal protections for vulnerable students.

As for diversity: Earlier this year the department decided to eliminate an Obama program that would have provided $12 million in grants to help districts increase socioeconomic diversity in their schools. Diversity and integration were top priorities for DeVos’ predecessor, Secretary John B. King Jr. And in the Obama administration’s last proposed budget for fiscal 2017, it unsuccessfully pitched a $120 million grant proposal with similar aims.

In addition, the CBC letter criticizes the proposed Trump budget for seeking cuts to TRIO, a department program designed to help disadvantaged students reach and succeed in college, because of the impact of such cuts on historically black colleges and universities.

Richmond noted that Trump was welcome to engage with individual members of the caucus even though the group as a whole would not meet with him.

Read the full letter from the Congressional Black Caucus to Trump.