More than a month after the Trump administration withdrew guidance designed to encourage racial diversity in the nation’s public schools, Senate Democrats have rebuked the decision, saying it will lead to confusion in schools as well as at institutes of higher education and restrict opportunities for historically disadvantaged students.
In an Aug. 6 letter to the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, which formally revoked the Obama-era guidance in early July, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the Senate education committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the top Democrat on Senate Judiciary Committee, also demanded to know how the decision to revoke the guidance was reached. The two senators also asked for a list of complaints of discrimination based on race and ethnicity filed against K-12 and postsecondary institutions with the Education Department’s office for civil rights since the start of 2016.
In their joint letter withdrawing the guidance, the Trump Education and Justice Departments told schools that the Obama administration’s guidance advocated for “policy preferences and positions beyond the requirements of the Constitution” and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
And Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decisions regarding affirmative action were the “best guide” for making decisions about diversity in education.
However, former Obama Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., now the president of the Education Trust, decried the decision at the time. He argued that innovative work to promote diversity in education “can help protect the future prosperity of our nation and the long-term health of our economy.”
In their letter, Feinstein and Murray picked up on that theme, saying the nation’s policies should promote diversity and inclusion, not “suppress” them.
“With almost daily attacks from your administration on the protections for immigrants, women, children, people of color, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault, and LGBTQ students, it is clear there is a coordinated and systematic effort to undermine the law, divide communities, and destabilize American values at every level and in every community,” wrote Feinstein and Murray, who were joined by 19 other Democrats who signed the letter.
Read the full letter below: