All Children Deserve Access to Quality Education, Free of Bullying
January 26, 2023
What constitutes a healthy learning environment for primary school children? And will race-based admissions and President Joe Biden's student debt relief plan survive Supreme Court scrutiny?
Education rights are under attack, especially for children of color and transgender students, said a group of panelists, exhorting Congress and the courts to step in and ensure equal access to quality learning.
Panelists discussed several issues which are being challenged in the courts: whether race should be considered as one of several factors in college admissions; President Joe Biden's student debt cancellation program; book bans and the controversy surrounding the teaching of critical race theory. They also discussed inclusion for disabled students, and the importance of early childhood education.
The administration's student loan relief program - which would provide debt relief for over 40 million working and middle class Americans by forgiving up to $20,000 in debt - has been challenged by a coalition of Republican-led states, which state that the required public period was not offered before the program was scheduled to be implemented. Lower courts have ruled in favor of the states and issued an injunction on implementation. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case this February.
Student Debt Relief is Essential
"The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented health, social, and economic crisis. The Biden Harris Administration student debt relief plan is an urgently needed moral and lawful response, said Genevieve 'Genzie' Bonadies Torres, Associate Director for the Educational Opportunities Project of the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights Under Law at the Jan. 18 news briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services.
"Without this relief, millions of borrowers would be pushed past the financial brink when student loan repayments
restart. And among them are millions of borrowers of color who we know have been hardest hit by the pandemic. This foreseeable spike in default would debilitate the credit of millions of borrowers, blocking their ability to pay for basic necessities and preventing them from securing affordable housing, among other adverse outcomes," she said.
Almost 50 percent of Latinx borrowers and 25 percent of Black borrowers stand to have all their student debt eliminated by Biden's plan, noted Torres. Students of color have roughly one-fifth of the generational wealth of their white counterparts and therefore are forced to take on more student loans, she said.
Race-Based College Admissions
The Supreme Court is also expected to issue a ruling on race-based admissions this June. Students for Fair Admissions has brought about two cases, one against Harvard, the other against the University of North Carolina.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito were dissenters on a similar case in 2016. Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch are also expected to rule against race-based admissions.
"We're not talking about quotas. What we are talking about is the limited consideration of race as one of 40 factors in the UNC case and one of more than 100 factors in the Harvard case," said Michaele Turnage Young, Senior Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"All students deserve a fair shot at getting a quality education, regardless of their income, where they grew up, or their racial or ethnic backgrounds," said Turnage Young.