US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin: Civil Rights Data Demonstrates Need for Policies That Ensure High-Quality Education for All Students

Education Committee Chair Led Introduction of Bills to Improve Access to High-Quality Early Learning Programs, Reduce Use of Seclusion and Restraints

Friday, March 21, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement today after the Department of Education (ED) released its Civil Rights Data Collection for the 2011-2012 school year. 

Among other findings, ED’s new civil rights data show widespread educational disparities in U.S. public schools, particularly for students with disabilities and students of color. Students with disabilities and students of color are much more likely to experience disciplinary action compared to their peers.  Students with disabilities also continue to be secluded and restrained in disproportionate numbers. 

African-American children comprise 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children suspended more than once. About 40 percent of school districts do not offer public pre-kindergarten and of those that do, 57 percent only offer part-day programs. This is the first year the Department has collected local-level data for every public school in the country.

“Just as it did in 2012, the Department of Education’s civil rights data reveal the disheartening reality that inequalities in our nation’s public high schools continue to persist, impacting some of our most vulnerable students—students with disabilities and students of color,” Harkin said. “Among its most troubling findings, this data collection reinforces previous reports about the disproportionate use of seclusion and restraints on students with disabilities—further underscoring the need to pass legislation to stop the use of seclusion and severely limit the use of restraints in school.


“This report makes clear that we have yet to attain equity in our nation’s classrooms and shows that these disparities begin at the earliest stages, with unequal access to public pre-kindergarten programs,” Harkin added. “We must continue to push for policies, including improved access to early learning programs and safe, inclusive, and positive learning environments, that ensure a high-quality education for all students, regardless of background.

“The Department’s systematic collection of this data creates a vitally important tool.  I applaud the Department for releasing the data directly to the public.  Students, families, and policymakers can now examine local, state, and national data, and use this information to help reduce these troubling disparities.”

Harkin is the author of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which will greatly expand access to high-quality early learning experiences for all children from birth through kindergarten entry, as well as the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which would stop the use of seclusion and severely limit the use of restraints in schools.    


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