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National organizations, global law firm partner to take steps toward securing quality education for students of color

Media Contacts:
Gina Physic, 202-505-4659, gphysic@advancementproject.org

WASHINGTON, DC — Advancement Project National Office and NAACP, along with pro bono law firm Arnold & Porter, have filed an amicus brief in the First Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals. In the brief, Advancement Project National Office, NAACP, and Arnold & Porter make the point that it is the connection between the right to vote and a quality education that impacts a person’s ability to fulfill their civic duty to participate in the democratic process, and without a quality education, individuals lack the ability to freely and fully operate in society.

While this legal action focuses on the denial of a quality education to historically disenfranchised communities of color in Rhode Island, the reality is that communities of color nationwide are being denied this right in both blatant and insidious ways, effectively working to trap them in their disenfranchisement making this both a racial justice issue and a Constitutional issue.

As evidenced time and time again over the course of the last year and throughout history, those who are most impacted by our country’s failing systems are the people of color who are most devalued and marginalized in this country. As our governments have become more complex across all levels, engaging with those systems of power has also become more challenging – particularly for the communities of color with the fewest tools to navigate said systems. One immediate remedy is to ensure that these communities and students of color receive a meaningful, quality education that allows for them to thrive and fulfill their duty to participate in the democratic process.

“Rhode Island’s negligence to provide sufficient civic preparation for Black and Latinx students reinforces its longstanding failure to equip the next generation,” explained Janette L. McCarthy-Wallace, NAACP General Counsel. “While this legal action focuses on establishing a right to quality education for students in Rhode Island, we hope that the impacts of this action are felt nationwide. It is critical, now more than ever, that people understand their rights and constitutional liberties.”

“Courts have long recognized that adequate education is a prerequisite to the exercise of numerous constitutional rights, is essential to the proper functioning of our democratic political system, and is fundamentally an issue of racial justice,” said Raqiyyah Pippins, a partner at Arnold & Porter. “The failure of some schools to provide to Black and Latinx students an education designed to gain necessary civic skills is a modern-day version of ‘separate but equal’, and is inconsistent with established principles of equal protection.”

The American public education system, in theory, exists to prepare children to become effective and engaged citizens. Historically, a public education has been the gateway to social and economic mobility and civic engagement for generations of immigrants, as well as native-born Americans. Yet, in many ways it has failed and continues to fail Black and Latinx youth by perpetuating a history of disenfranchisement that embarrasses the United States to this day.

Unequal access to a quality civics education yields unequal access to any meaningful participation in public policy. Rectifying that inequality is an essential step toward securing participatory democracy for all people and for generations to come.

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Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org.

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