The Democratic Candidates’ Positions on School Diversity & Related Educational Equity Issues

Articles | July 1 2019

By Philip Tegeler[1] & Abi Hollinger[2]

After last week’s Democratic presidential debates, school integration has unexpectedly emerged as a serious issue in the campaign, as Senator Kamala Harris asserted the importance of school integration, based on her own experience growing up in Berkeley, California, and criticized Vice President Biden for his anti-busing positions (and collaborations) in the 1970s.

Coincidentally, this debate comes at a time when the National Coalition on School Diversity (NCSD) and a growing school diversity movement both inside and outside government are pushing to remove these last remaining vestiges from the “anti-busing” years – blanket prohibitions on the use of federal funds for student transportation to support integration.  Last year, with bipartisan support, two perennial anti-busing budget riders attached to the federal budget were removed.[3]  And this year, there is growing support in Congress to remove the final anti-busing provision, section 426 of the General Education Provisions Statute, originally passed in 1974.[4] This effort is part of a broader federal policy agenda of the school integration movement, reflected in the NCSD’s federal policy priorities for 2019, including removal of Section 426, passage of the Strength in Diversity competitive grants program, expanded funding  for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, for interdistrict school planning, and for the Equity Assistance Centers (which assist local districts in school integration planning).[5]  NCSD has also called for the reinstatement of the 2011 school diversity guidance letter, reinstatement of the school integration incentives for Department of Education competitive grant funds, and linking the Magnet Schools Assistance Program with HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods public housing redevelopment program.[6]  A number of these policy proposals are part of the candidates’ education platforms, which are reviewed in this brief. (Read more)