Civil Rights Statement of Support for Robust and Meaningful Federal Regulation and Oversight in ESSA

Media 03.4.16

Recipient: Acting Secretary King

View the PDF of this letter here.

Dear Acting Secretary King:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the 55 undersigned organizations, we write to urge the U.S. Department of Education to use its full authority to ensure that state and local implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) best serves girls and boys of color, English Learners, students with disabilities, Native American students, low-income students and those who are migrant, homeless, in foster care or returning from or placed in juvenile detention, or LGBTQ. We believe that the only way for states, districts, and schools to be in compliance and consistent with the law’s intent is through robust and meaningful federal regulation and oversight.

The congressional intent of the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was to recognize that the federal government has a vital role in protecting the civil rights and promoting educational opportunity for all students, especially our most vulnerable students. Prior reauthorizations have honored this intent and ESSA is no different.

This new law includes serious protections for vulnerable students, and creates important leverage for parents, communities, and advocates to continue their push for equity and accountability for all students. ESSA is clear: The department has the authority and responsibility to issue regulations and guidance, and to provide guidance and technical assistance for the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

For today’s students—especially students of color, students with disabilities, English Learners, Native students, low-income students and other vulnerable students— the challenges are different than they were more than 50 years ago, but the stakes are at least as high. Given the long history of state and local decisions shortchanging vulnerable students, the department cannot shirk from its regulatory and enforcement responsibilities to ensure that the implementation of ESSA eliminates, not perpetuates, persistent inequities in our nation’s public education system.

Our organizations stand ready to work with you and your staff, states, districts, schools, parents, and communities to implement the ESSA so that all students have the educational opportunity to truly succeed. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Nancy Zirkin, Leadership Conference executive vice president, at [email protected] or Liz King, Leadership Conference director of education policy, at [email protected].


The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights


Alliance for Excellent Education

American Association of University Women (AAUW)

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)


Children’s Advocacy Institute

Children’s Defense Fund

Children’s Home Society of America


Coalition for Juvenile Justice

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Democrats for Education Reform

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund

Easter Seals

Education Law Center-PA

The Education Trust

First Focus Campaign for Children


Human Rights Campaign

Human Rights Project for Girls

Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Juvenile Law Center

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

League of United Latin American Citizens



NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Counsel for Children

National Center for Housing and Child Welfare

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools

National Center for Youth Law

National Council of La Raza

The National Crittenton Foundation

National Disability Rights Network

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Indian Education Association

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National Urban League

National Women’s Law Center

National Youth Advocate Program, Inc.

New Leaders


Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Public Advocates


Southern Poverty Law Center


Teach For America

Teach Plus


True Colors Fund