WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference Education Fund — joined by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) — held a press briefing to discuss urgent education priorities for 2023. The civil rights community detailed threats and opportunities for students in the new year and foreshadowed what to expect. Experts and advocates spoke on the Supreme Court challenges to federal student loan debt cancellation and affirmative action in higher education, in addition to school discipline, threats to equal educational opportunity, and early care and education.
“We know that education policy decisions must be informed by the values, priorities, and experiences of marginalized people. For too long, people of color, Native people, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, immigrants, religious minorities, English learners, girls, low-income people, and other marginalized people have had their stories told by someone else. Their opportunity to attend a school that is warm, welcoming, and that prepares them for the full exercise of their social, political, and economic rights has been denied,” said Liz King, senior director of education equity at The Leadership Conference Education Fund. “As students, families, educators, and school communities continue to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that a return to 2019 isn’t good enough. Normal isn’t good enough. Every child deserves access to an excellent equitable education that prepares them for the future. It is their right and our national imperative.”
“There are alarming attacks on education equity and pathways to economic opportunity, especially for Black and Latinx people, on this year’s Supreme Court docket. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for students to realize the full potential of their education between the threat of insurmountable student debt exacerbated by COVID-19’s severe financial setbacks, along with a concerted effort to overturn affirmative action and turn back the clock on diversity and equal opportunity,” said Genevieve “Genzie” Bonadies Torres, associate director of the education opportunities project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We urge the court to affirm President Biden’s debt relief plan, which would provide essential relief for Black and Brown borrowers — especially women of color — who are still recovering from the economic fallout disproportionately shouldered during the pandemic. The Lawyers’ Committee is committed to fighting for every student’s right to receive a quality education and achieve financial security, regardless of economic status, gender, or race.”
“All students deserve a fair shot at getting a quality education, regardless of their income, where they grew up, or their racial and ethnic background. However, while talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Too many students of color must contend with systemic and interpersonal racism that detrimentally affects their educational opportunities,” said Michaele Turnage Young, senior counsel at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF). “Later this year, in lawsuits involving Harvard and UNC, the Supreme Court will decide whether colleges and universities can continue to consider race, as one of many factors, in admissions. It is important that colleges and universities continue to be allowed to consider the full context of applicants’ experiences, including the way that racism artificially depresses the prospects of many hardworking, talented, Black, Latinx, Native, and underserved Asian American students.”
“All students deserve safe, healthy, and inclusive school climates. Every student deserves the opportunity to attend positive school environments that support their rights, protect against harassment and discrimination, and ensure their health and safety,” said AJ Link, policy analyst at Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
“At IDRA, we know that culturally-sustaining schools are key to students’ success. Culturally-sustaining schools are places where every student feels welcome — no one is asked to check parts of their identity at the door; everyone sees themselves and their communities reflected in the curriculum and instructional practices; diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts are meaningful; and everyone feels safe,” said Morgan Craven, national director of policy, advocacy and community engagement at Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA). “We know that these types of learning environments are beneficial for all students and adults in a school community, and we must challenge any efforts to undermine them.”
“We are entering year four of a pandemic that pressure-tested an early care and education system already in crisis, causing devastating results across the country for early educators and families alike. For the early care and education sector, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated the deep inequities of an early care and education system that relies on families paying unaffordable sums, early educators being paid poverty level wages, and too many communities across the country lacking sufficient workforce or facilities to meet early care and education demands. These inequities disproportionately impact women and families of color. The pandemic has only brought more challenges, especially for women of color, who comprise a significant portion of the underpaid early care and education workforce and have the least access to affordable care for their children. In order to ensure that children and families have access to and are included in comprehensive, diverse, and high-quality early care and education settings, we seek policies that reflect our coalition’s Civil Rights Principles for Early Care and Education,” said Whitney Pesek, director of federal child care policy at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). “In 2023, NWLC, along with the coalition, continues to engage and educate diverse stakeholders and policymakers around these principles to protect civil rights and advance equity for children, families, staff, and providers.”
The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal and state policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit civilrights.org/edfund/.