U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Office for Civil Rights Annual Report to Congress (1999)

Our Goal Is Equal Access To Quality Education

"At the core of our efforts - with Brown as our foundation - must be the establishment of the principle that equal educational opportunity means an equal opportunity for a quality education - with emphasis on the word 'quality.'"

Secretary Riley
May 17, 1999
45th Anniversary of the Brown Supreme Court Decision

During the past year, the Department marked two special events: the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared separate but equal schools to be unconstitutional, and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibited disability discrimination. Together, these historic events have helped bring about profound changes in American education and improve the educational opportunities of millions of students. Both have contributed to bringing the formerly excluded into the mainstream of American life.

Secretary Riley reading to childrenAs we enter the new millennium, the need to continue to build on these important accomplishments is critical. Barriers to equal educational opportunity continue to thwart our progress in guaranteeing that each individual can develop his or her talents to the fullest. This will require that educational opportunity comes to embrace equal access to high quality education for all.

In this new information age driven by science and technology and an increasingly competitive global economy, the goal must be to ensure that all students have the opportunity to get a quality education that will prepare them for a productive and challenging life.

The future of our children will depend, in large part, on the quality of education they receive. A quality education for all is the only way this country can remain strong and full of possibility. The inability or lack of resolve to provide access to high standards education threatens this nation's ability to compete in the world economy, as well as ensure our security and quality of life. Fifteen years ago a worker with a college degree made 38 percent more, on average, than a worker with a high school degree. Today, that gap is 73 percent.1

"The struggle in education today involves two things that are inextricably bound - a fight for equal opportunity and a fight for educational excellence."

President Clinton
July 17, 1997
NAACOP National Convention

The consequences for our nation are as critical as the consequences for individuals. Almost 90 percent of the new jobs being created today require more than a high school level of literacy and math skills.2 By 2010, 65 percent of all jobs will require technology skills.3 High-skill jobs are now growing at nearly three times the rate of other jobs.

If we are to accomplish our national goals, excellence and equity in education will have to go hand-in- hand. We are a nation filled with potential, and we can seize the great opportunities of the twenty-first century by making it possible for all children to acquire the skills and knowledge to realize their own potential and dreams.

Young Students Talking

previous iconTOC next icon