NEA applauds Supreme Court’s ruling on diversity

From the National Education Association

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday affirmed that universities may continue to provide students the substantial benefits of learning in an integrated and diverse student body by upholding the admissions program at issue in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

As argued in the amicus brief submitted by the National Education Association — and joined by the American Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrialized Organization, the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union — achieving diversity in public schools and universities remains a compelling government interest. Today, the court agreed in a 4-3 decision.

“We are profoundly gratified by the court’s decision in Fisher because the long-term benefits set in motion by programs like the one at the University of Texas, Austin, have such a real and profound impact on the way society functions,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Our institutions of higher education need to continue to be able to use such programs, which provide a crucial foundation for achieving true equality throughout our society.”

The mission of public elementary, secondary and higher education is to instill in all students the values on which our society rests and to provide them all, regardless of race, with the skills and knowledge necessary to realize their full potential. That mission cannot be fulfilled without racially-diverse classrooms.

“We do not live in a color-blind society, and race still matters,” said Eskelsen García. “When it comes to public education — whether it’s preschool or graduate school — racial classifications continue to carry great weight. If we’re serious about ensuring every child has access to a great public school, no matter his or her ZIP code, then we must uphold diversity programs because there is no question that they serve a compelling state interest.”

Research suggests that the impact of integration not only decreases achievement and wage gaps, but it also reduces drop-out rates and increases the likelihood that young people of all races and backgrounds will live in the same communities and work in the same industries. This, in turn, reduces discrimination and, naturally, increases opportunity for people from all backgrounds.

“This is not made-up, stars in our eyes kind-of stuff,” said Eskelsen García. “There is empirical evidence affirmative action fosters a type of racial harmony that works to combat persistent inequality. The Supreme Court today agreed that institutions of higher education can make the judgment that they will heed that evidence and carefully craft policies that will yield truly diverse student bodies.”

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