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US civil rights commission urges Congress to increase public school funding in minority and low-income communities

[JURIST] The United States Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) [official website] on Thursday urged [report, PDF] Congress to take drastic actions to remedy the disparity in public school funding in minority and low-income communities.

The report calls on "[f]ederal, state, and local government [to] develop incentives to promote communities that are not racially segregated and do not have concentrated poverty, which in turn would positively impact segregation and concentrated poverty in public schools and the educational challenges associated with such schools."

The USCCR asserts that the U.S. spends over $550 billion on public education annually, breaking down to an average of $11,066 on each student each year. However, the commission found that "that number fluctuates drastically from district to district" due to the reliance on local property taxes, which are in turn "largely tied to property values and the wealth of a community."

By way of example, the commission notes that there has only "been marginal improvement" since 1965, when a similar report found that "the average white seventh grade student from the urban northeast region performed just as well academically as a black twelfth grade student from the rural southern region," and that "there are still significant gaps among white students and students of color across the U.S."

USCCR called on Congress to increase federal funding to supplement state and local funding, with a goal of providing meaningful educational opportunities on an equitable basis to all public-school students, and to incentivize states to invest in facilities which can help to provide an equitable environment.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez [text], a quality education has become even more mandatory for students to gain the skills necessary to work in the new global information age economy and it has become clear that some states and cities are continuing to discriminate against students of color in the funding of their schools. Congress should make clear that there is a federal right to a public education.

Congress established the Commission on Civil Rights through the Civil Rights Act of 1957 [text, PDF] as an independent agency with a mission to inform the development of national civil rights policy and enhance enforcement of federal civil rights laws.

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