US Federal Agencies Join Forces For Diversity, Opportunity Gaps

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

The US Departments of Education (ED), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation (DOT), have entered into a partnership in an effort to help state and local leaders increase diversity at schools as well as in communities, and to help close opportunity gaps.

The agencies hosted an interagency listening session for the leaders of education, housing, and transportation at the Education Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. earlier in the week.

The session was meant to offer educators, researchers, and community leaders the opportunity to come together with policy experts and leaders from the three agencies, allowing for the discussion of voluntary, community-led strategies that could increase diversity in schools and neighborhoods across the country.  In addition, panels were included to discuss the benefits of diversity, opportunities at the federal level, a case study on diversity in action, and community planning.  People who are currently doing the work were also be available for attendees to listen to, as well as senior officials from the three agencies who discussed additional opportunities for increasing diversity efforts on a local level.

“Diversity benefits all students in our schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “Our schools, as well as our communities, should reflect the increasing diversity in our nation. Students who attend diverse schools will be better prepared to live and work, and be active citizens in today’s world.”

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro added that in order to increase opportunity, a “safe, stable place to live and a quality education” are necessary.  He added that the group has a responsibility to give children what they need in order to reach their full potential, wherever they may live.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony R. Foxx made the point that there are not enough transportation options available for people in order for them to go out and pursue opportunities such as high-quality education, good-paying jobs, and affordable housing.  He went on to say that in order for people to attain the “American Dream,” transportation opportunities need to be increased.

In an effort to support school diversity, the Education Department recently issued a joint letter along with HUD and DOT pushing for state and local leaders to work together in order to promote actual economic mobility and increase opportunities for every child in each community.  According to the letter, this will be accomplished through the identification of barriers in existence within the community that deny socioeconomic growth and racial diversity.  Once these barriers have been identified, the letter said they each need to be addressed.

The department has also created a number of programs, such as the Investing in Innovation, Magnet School Assistance Program, and Charter School Program in an effort to put their focus into increasing diversity in schools.

Efforts have also been made to request feedback on diversity support as a strategy to turnaround low-performing schools through its School Improvement Grants Program.

Earlier in the week, King announced additional efforts being made by the department in order to focus on socioeconomic diversity in grant programs in the future, beginning in fiscal 2016.  A new supplemental priority for discretionary grant programs that offer support to socioeconomic diversity strategies has been published and is expected to go live later in the week.