Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Office for Civil Rights Puts Texas on Notice: Hopwood Affirmative Action Case Less Important Than Whether Texas Schools Are Segregated, OCR Says

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Office for Civil Rights Puts Texas on Notice: Hopwood Affirmative Action Case Less Important Than Whether Texas Schools Are Segregated, OCR Says

Article excerpt

Office for Civil Rights Puts Texas on Notice: Hopwood Affirmative Action. Case Less Important Than Whether Texas Schools Are Segregated, OCR Says

While Texas state officials scramble to adopt race-neutral admissions and financial aid policies in the state's public higher education system, the U.S. Department of Education has opened an inquiry to determine whether the state is complying with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

[The Office for Civil Rights also sent a letter to Ohio's Gov. George V. Voinovich announcing its renewed investigation into the state's treatment of Central State University. For more details, see pg. 8.]

The state of Texas, which has adopted race-neutral policies as a result of the 1996 U.S. Fifth Circuit Court decision in Hopwood v. The State of Texas banning race as a factor in University of Texas Law School admissions, stands to lose millions in funding from the Department of Education if it fails to meet Title VI and comply with related consent decrees that allow the use of race as a factor in admissions and financial aid.

On March 18, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed twenty-six members of the Texas state legislature by letter that it "will work with Texas officials to determine whether any vestiges of prior discrimination are causing discrimination to continue."

The letters, sent by Norma V. Cantú, Department of Education assistant secretary for OCR, were a response by the agency to inquiries made by the legislators on whether adopting race-neutral admissions and financial aid policies violates Title VI and related consent decrees.

Cantú wrote in the letter that she had written earlier to Texas Governor George Bush to renew OCR's dialogue with Texas officials about the state's desegregation plan and whether the state has "eliminated the vestiges of prior déjure segregation in its system of public higher education." She also stated that the "Supreme Court has consistently held that affirmative action measures may be taken to remedy the effects of prior discrimination."

Raymond C. Pierce, deputy assistant secretary for the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, said education department officials have begun "informal discussions" with Texas officials over the state's move towards race-neutral policies in higher education admissions and financial aid. …

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