Obama education secretary slams moves on affirmative action
Former Education Secretary John King Jr. expressed dismay that the Trump administration is “going backwards on civil rights issues” following the rollback of Obama-era policies on the use of race to promote diversity in higher education.
Last week, the administration rescinded this guidance, which provided examples of different educational contexts within which institutions could permissibly consider race and answered questions about how to interpret Supreme Court decisions. King, who served as education secretary in the last year of President Barack Obama’s second term, called the move “dangerous.”
“It’s dangerous because the truth is African-American and Latino students are significantly underrepresented: underrepresented on Ivy League campuses, underrepresented in research universities, underrepresented in flagship state public higher-ed institutions, dramatically underrepresented in many cases,” King told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files,” a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
The rollback of the guidance does not change current affirmative action laws, but King predicted that the move would usher in a number of court battles — potentially one at the Supreme Court.
“In the end, if the Supreme Court ends up backing away from affirmative action, if we see individual universities concerned about this new position from the federal government changing their policies, what we could end up with is even less access to opportunity for talented African-American and Latino students,” King said, noting that such an outcome would be a “long-term disaster for the country.”
“The future of the country depends on having African-American, Latino and low-income students who get great educational opportunities and are prepared to lead into the future,” he said. King also claimed that reversing the guidance could have detrimental effects on K-12 education because it “sends a signal to school districts that the administration is opposed to them thinking about how to create more diverse schools within school districts.”
King accused the Trump administration of using the decision to sow discord in order rile up its base.
“Diversity is good but this administration is trying to frame diversity as something that’s bad,” he said.