(WJBF) — The U.S. Department of Education has released a new report on the state of diversity in American schools, coinciding with the 69th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. Based on Department data and educational research, the report highlights the persistent segregation patterns that hinder progress toward racial and socio-economic diversity. It emphasizes the benefits of diverse schools, including improved academic achievement, social mobility, civic engagement, empathy, and understanding. To address this issue, the Department has launched the Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration Program, offering $10 million to support voluntary efforts in increasing diversity in schools.

According to the report, students of color disproportionately attend schools with majority of students of color populations. Federal data reveals that three in five Black and Latino students, as well as two in five American Indian/Alaska Native students, attend schools where at least 75% of students are students of color. In contrast, around half of white students attend schools with less than 25% of students of color. Despite the proven benefits of attending racially and socioeconomically integrated schools, the problem of isolation persists.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona emphasizes the need to address the role of race, place, and income in educational opportunity. He highlights the negative impact of racial and socioeconomic isolation on national competitiveness and announces the launch of a grant program to support efforts in building socioeconomically diverse school communities.

Isolated schools along racial or socioeconomic lines often lack critical resources and funding, perpetuating opportunity gaps for underserved students. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized academic acceleration and made significant investments in K-12 education. They are committed to promoting diverse schools through grant funding and encourage efforts to improve school diversity, which can provide students with access to resources needed for success, such as experienced educators and advanced coursework.

The Fostering Diverse Schools Demonstration program aims to enhance school conditions and provide well-rounded education by developing comprehensive plans for increasing school socioeconomic diversity from preschool through grade 12. The Department invites applicants to submit locally tailored plans that encourage socioeconomic diversity in schools, courses, and programs. The program also considers legally permissible strategies for promoting diversity based on factors like race/ethnicity, culture, and geography.

The Department of Education’s actions, including investments, accountability, oversight, civil rights enforcement, and technical support, are crucial in increasing school diversity. They encourage states and districts to renew efforts in providing equitable access to resources that positively impact educational opportunities and outcomes, such as high-quality educators, early childhood education, rigorous coursework, and adequate school funding.

The report and the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) are part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to advance racial equity, support underserved communities, and improve schools and communities following the pandemic, in line with President Biden’s Day One Executive Order.

The Department’s Office for Civil Rights has long shared guidance, available in multiple languages, regarding civil rights obligations in school communities that receive federal funds to ensure that they make education equally available to all students.

The State of School Diversity report can be found here, and the Notice Inviting Applications for the Fostering Diverse Schools demonstration program can be found here.