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'Strength in Diversity Act' Would Create Federal Grants for Schools

Democrats in Congress have proposed legislation to increase socioeconomic diversity and address racial isolation in schools through federal grants.

The Strength in Diversity Act was introduced Thursday by Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. The legislation would authorize $120 million in grants for "voluntary community-driven strategies" to increase diversity through studying segregation, hiring new teachers, and other means.

In statements discussing the bill, Fudge and Murphy stressed the importance of diversity in closing academic achievement gaps and address resource inequities. Fudge and Murphy are members of the House and Senate education committees, respectively. 

Diversity was a top priority for the Obama administration, especially for former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. At the tail end of Obama's presidency, the administration introduced a $12 million grant program to boost diversity in schools. However, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos pulled the grant program before it got off the ground. She also rescinded Obama-era guidance that highlighted ways schools could promote racial diversity. 

According to Murphy's office, the Strength in Diversity Act's grants could pay for:

  • 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 bussing service;
  • Creating or expanding innovative school programs that can attract students from outside the local area, and
  • Recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers to support specialized schools.

"Congress needs to step up and do what we can to make sure school districts have the necessary tools to increase diversity in schools, which we know will help close the achievement gap," Murphy said in a statement. 

And Fudge included a dig at DeVos in her statement about the bill: "We currently have a Department of Education—under the leadership of Secretary DeVos—that is actively undermining students' civil rights protections.  Increasing diversity in staff, resources, and student populations in our public schools should be a top priority."

Like virtually all bills from Democrats this Congress, education-related or otherwise, this bill doesn't stand much of a chance of passing. But advocates for diversity, such as those who attended a Capitol Hill forum recently, say there are opportunities to gain ground outside of the Beltway. 

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