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What's the Future of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights?

When the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hosted a conference this month that its leader called "the start of a national conversation on formulating a new civil rights agenda for the 21st century," apparently no one from the national mainstream media bothered to show up and cover it. At least the only reporter I noticed at the conference who stuck it out for the full one-day meeting, as I did, was representing a Los Angeles-based media outlet.

But I do want to draw your attention to a news analysis published by the Washington Post two days after the conference that quoted both people who feel the commission is doing useful work and people who think it isn't. The story questions if the commission is "too mired in political fights" to develop answers to the important civil rights questions of our day. And it notes that President Obama will be able to appoint a new chairman to the commission in December.

That's an appointment I'll keep an eye on.

Also, two days after the conference, The Atlantic Wire wrote a post asking the question, "Does the U.S. Still Need a Civil Rights Commission?"

In reporting the story I wrote for EdWeek about the commission's conference, I learned that back in the 1960s, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights laid the foundation for landmark civil rights legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Civil rights is a topic that members of the Obama administration have been talking a lot about. The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have been particularly active lately, it seems, in investigating whether states and school districts are upholding the civil rights of English-language learners.

It will be interesting to see if the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights will at some point play a larger role in those discussions.

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