A letter from the U.S. Department of Education to states and school districts lays out the consistent racial disparities present in America’s public schools. The letter, prepared by the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), explains that such disparities violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and suggests ways in which localities can monitor and address the problem.
Of the high schools serving mostly Black and Latino students during the 2011-2012 school year, only 74 percent offered advanced algebra, and only 66 percent offered chemistry. Almost 20 percent of Black high-schoolers attend a school with no Advanced Placement (AP) offerings, a higher rate than any other racial group.
Schools serving the most Blacks and Latinos are also 1.5 times more likely to employ younger teachers, who tend to be less effective because of their inexperience. On top of that, those schools paid, on average, $1,913 less during the 2011-2012 school year than those schools in the same district with the lowest percentage of minorities.
The letter explains that the OCR is tasked with enforcing Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in any program receiving federal funds. The OCR notes that discrimination in the distribution of educational resources, not simply or necessarily funding, is what is prohibited by Title VI.
The letter concludes with recommendations that school districts can take on their own to ensure that they are in compliance with Title VI. The OCR suggests school districts do regular evaluations to ensure that their resources are being distributed equitably among their students, and that they take proactive steps to remedy any disparities within the district or within individual schools.