Skip to Content

NEA on the Department’s Promise to Fight Inequity in Education

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia: Do you know a school where we must fight inequity?

WASHINGTON - October 01, 2014 -

U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released a Dear Colleague Letter that highlights and explains Federal requirements regarding the provision of education resources, how OCR investigates resource disparities, and what states, school districts, and schools can do to meet their civil rights obligations to all students.

“The Secretary is right on equity. He is right to listen to those wise voices from the Commission on Equity and Excellence who called for an end to the pervasive inequities across public schools,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia following Sec. Duncan’s announcement. “My predecessor, the NEA president before me, sat on that commission. Good people of all races and ethnicities stressed that the foundation of everything we hope to accomplish in public education will depend on whether or not students in our poorest neighborhoods have the same opportunities to learn and succeed as the students in our richest neighborhoods.”

Former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel was appointed to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission in 2011. The Commission was created to examine the disparities in meaningful educational opportunities that give rise to achievement gaps, paying particular attention to school funding issues, and made recommendations on how federal policies can address such disparities. The Commission also recommended ways to restructure school finance systems to achieve equity in the distribution of educational resources in order to boost student learning and achievement.

“We know what equity looks like. Walk into the most impressive, gorgeous public school you can find with a theater department, a chemistry lab with up-to-date equipment, and a library full of books. You know those schools. They are the best schools in the world. Equity means every school should look like those schools. When someone says, ’We can’t afford that,’ fearless fighters for equity will say, ‘Si se puede! Yes, you can!’ If you can afford well-resourced schools for those kids, you can afford it for these kids,” added Eskelsen Garcia.

As a result of the announcement, OCR will investigate claims that some children do not enjoy the same extracurricular programs, gifted and talented and Advanced Placement programs, and fine arts and athletic programs as other children based on their race, color, or national origin. They will investigate claims that facilities, technology, and instructional materials are not equally available to all children. They will investigate claims that critical support services and licensed, experienced teachers are not equally available to all children.

Eskelsen Garcia called on educators, parents, and community members to share their story of a school crying out for equity. NEA created a Web site, to collect the information and pass it on to the Office of Civil Rights.

“It is the mission of the NEA to make every public school as good as the best public school and ensure that the gifts and talents of each and every child are given a chance to flourish,” she concluded.

For more information and to read Eskelsen Garcia’s full remarks visit: 

Follow us on twitter at

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser



Equity and Opportunity for All