Bustos Helps Pass Strength in Diversity Act to Support Local Efforts to Desegregate Public Schools

Peoria and Rockford schools rank among most segregated in the nation

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) helped pass the Strength in Diversity Act of 2020 to help desegregate public schools and provide support to school districts that are developing, implementing or expanding school diversity initiatives.

According to a 2019 study, Peoria had the sixth-highest level of segregation measured between Black and white students of any metro area in the country, while Rockford ranked among the top third of most segregated metro areas between Black and white students.

“While the landmark Brown v, Board of Education ruling was handed down more than 60 years ago, schools in Peoria, Rockford and across our nation continue to struggle with segregation,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “Inequity in our schools disproportionately sells students of color short, and a fair shot at success means equal access to resources and educational opportunities. I strongly support the Strength in Diversity Act and was proud to help pass this legislation. Until full equity is achieved in education, we have work to do to deliver the American dream.”

The Strength in Diversity Act of 2020 would:

  • Establish a grant program that provides federal funding to support voluntary local efforts to increase diversity in schools. Grants could fund a range of proposals, including (but not limited to):
    • Studying segregation, evaluating current policies, and developing evidence-based plans to address socioeconomic and racial isolation.
    • Establishing public school choice zones, revising school boundaries, or expanding equitable access to transportation for students.
    • Creating or expanding innovative school programs that can attract students from outside the local area.
    • Recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers to support specialized schools.
  • Support the development and maintenance of best practices for grantees and experts in the field of school diversity.
  • Provide grant funding to school districts, independently or in collaboration with neighboring districts, as well as regional educational authorities and educational service agencies.

BACKGROUND

America’s public schools are more segregated today than at any time since the 1960s. The segregation of students by race and income has dramatically increased over the past two decades. The share of K-12 public schools that were high-poverty and comprised of mostly Black or Latino students nearly doubled from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2013.

Segregated schools promote inequity in education. In 2016, schools with predominantly children of color received $23 billion less than schools with predominantly white students, despite serving the same number of children. Students of color not only attend schools that are under-resourced, they also attend schools that are over-disciplined. In the 2015-16 school year, Black students accounted for 15 percent of all students, but 31 percent of referrals to law enforcement and school-based arrests.

Students attending diverse schools do better academically, because they gain access to the same resources as white students. The benefits from attending diverse schools continue into adulthood, including more integrated communities, higher levels of social cohesion, and reduced racial prejudice.

Districts across the country have implemented innovative strategies to address these issues, including developing state-of-the-art magnet schools, establishing open enrollment policies, or changing feeder patterns to promote diversity. However, many school districts lack the resources necessary to meaningfully address school segregation in their communities, including nearly 30 districts who applied for the Obama-era integration grant that Secretary DeVos eliminated.

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