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NEA President on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

Supreme Court decision ‘turns back’ nation’s commitment to racial equality, equal treatment

WASHINGTON - April 22, 2014 -

The Supreme Court of the United States today delivered its opinion in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, rejecting a constitutional challenge to Michigan’s Proposal 2, an initiative that bans affirmative action in university admissions. The decision of the Sixth Circuit has been reversed.

The National Education Association, representing more than 3 million educators and joined by the Michigan Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court decision that had struck down Proposal 2 as an impermissible distortion of the political process to the detriment of affirmative action proponents. The brief argued that diversity in our educational institutions, at the K-12 and higher education level, is critical to our public schools and universities fulfilling their missions of preparing students to function as citizens of our increasingly diverse country. The brief also contended that proponents of affirmative action programs should not be disadvantaged in the political process based on their views that it is appropriate to take race into account to ensure student bodies are fully representative of all groups in our society.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Today’s decision turns back our nation’s commitment to racial equality and equal treatment under the law by sanctioning separate and unequal political processes that put undue burdens on students. The Supreme Court has made it harder to advocate and, ultimately, achieve equal educational opportunity.

“Having spent 23 years in the classroom, I saw first-hand the important role diversity played in the classroom and how learning from people with different backgrounds and perspectives can benefit all students, our workforce and our country as a whole. Fostering educational diversity and greater opportunity is critical to our nation’s future in a global economy and an increasingly interconnected world.

“Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we find ourselves still separate and unequal, and the fight wages on to level the uneven playing field. It’s in everyone’s interest to see that talented students from all backgrounds get a close look and a fair shot at overcoming obstacles to educational opportunity. Yet, the Supreme Court’s decision places roadblocks on the critical efforts to ensure that our public universities are places where a fair and equal exchange of ideas from a variety of perspectives and viewpoints is encouraged, not compromised.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Staci Maiers, NEA (202) 270-5333 cell,