Can Separate Ever Be Equal?
September 30, 2005 - 10:48am ET
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Talk about adding fuel to the proverbial fire. In the wake of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, members of the Bush administration have suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, proposed relaxing environmental regulations and suspended affirmative action for rebuilding contractors. Now, Department of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other senators want to waive the McKinney-Vento Act for evacuee children. The McKinney-Vento Act requires equal treatment for homeless students.
Spellings plans to ask Congress to grant her the authority for the waiver, since she cannot authorize it herself. She also made a verbal commitment to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah that she would seek to waive McKinney-Vento.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, have proposed a bill that would allow school districts to open separate schools for hurricane victims and allow schools to use ID cards or “other identifying insignia” for these students, according to Salon.com . (Free day pass or registration required.) This would waive federal rules that prevent school districts from segregating homeless students or using special identification cards or wristbands to separate them from the general population of students.
This bill would also take away parents’ ability to protest their children’s placement in other schools, and would make it easier for children to be moved during the school year or even denied transportation. Apparently, "it is not practical to permit parents or guardians to select the campus a child will attend," according to a letter from Texas education commissioner Shirley J. Neeley to the Department of Education. Neeley also supports relaxing federal rules that permit homeless children to be expediently enrolled in a school of a parent's choice.
The estimated 372,000 displaced students from the Gulf region have already lost the stability and comforts of their own homes and schools. Do they really need to be further stigmatized by being singled out or segregated from the rest of the school’s population?
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