Education Gap Is An 'Urgent' Civil Rights
Issue: George W. Bush
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[April 11, 2014]
By Karen Brooks
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) — Inequality in
the U.S. education system favors white children over minorities, the
poor and the disabled, making it "one of the most urgent civil rights
issues of our time," former President George W. Bush said on Thursday.
Speaking to a crowd of students, activists, and national leaders
in Austin, Texas, his home state, Bush said he fears a return to
"the soft bigotry of low expectations" that strips disadvantaged
students of a strong education.
Bush was among four American presidents who addressed the three-day
meeting, joining President Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill
Clinton to mark a half century since former President Lyndon Johnson
signed the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of race,
ethnicity, religion or gender.
With Bush's former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in the
audience, Bush focused his remarks on education as a cornerstone of
Johnson's civil rights reforms.
He also defended his administration's attempts to close the
achievement gap with the embattled 2002 law "No Child Left Behind,"
which required schools to bring minority children up to the same
achievement levels as white students and used annual assessment
tools to track progress.
The law was criticized by some as being an unfunded and unfair
mandate on schools, as well as a risk to children who don't test
well, among other concerns.
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But Bush on Thursday called it a basic and effective idea that, like
most pieces of legislation over the years, "eventually requires
His remarks come as nation debates issues such as the amount of
testing in schools, gaps in reading levels between whites and
minorities and efforts to privatize the public school system.
"No law is perfect," Bush said. "The problem comes when people start
to give up on the goal."
(Reporting by Karen Brooks; editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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