Secretary Duncan: Education 'Civil Rights Issue of Our Generation'

Friday, 16 May 2014 02:00 PM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Education is the "civil rights issue of our generation," and communities need to ensure students have the chance to attend a school that will provide them with opportunity, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said.

"We have to get better results," Duncan told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday. "We have to worry so much, not just about the achievement gap, but the opportunity gap."

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Schools are a reflection of their surrounding neighborhoods, Duncan said, and more work was needed to "equalize educational opportunity" and "level the playing field for all of our nation's children."

"School integration, or lack of integration, reflects housing patterns. And, when we choose to live apart from each other, schools reflect that. When we choose to live closer to each other and in more diverse communities, our schools reflect that," he said.

Duncan suggested one way to create opportunities for all students would be through school choice. He said it was important to ensure that "every single public school in this nation is a school of choice."

Children who don't attend racially diverse schools may have great academic skills, Duncan said, but often "lack a confidence level and a comfort around people who are different from them, whether it's racially or socioeconomically."

How exactly to bring about diverse classrooms through a more integrated community could play out in New York's Westchester County. In 2013, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the county needed to increase new subsidized housing projects for minorities, called "communities of opportunity," according to The Daily Caller.

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