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

Office for Civil Rights Annual Report to Congress (1999)

Message From The Assistant Secretary


NormaFederal civil rights laws provide protection for our students against the denial of access to educational opportunities on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age and disability. In enforcing these nondiscrimination guarantees, the Office for Civil Rights' (OCR) mission is aligned with the Department of Education's mission- promoting educational excellence throughout the nation.

At the outset of this Administration, OCR set a new national agenda designed to ensure meaningful access to a high quality, high standards education for all students. We have not wavered from the conviction that equal educational opportunity can and must go hand-in-hand with educational excellence.

This Annual Report summarizes accomplishments during fiscal year 1999, including a wide array of strategies that were used to implement fair, efficient, and effective enforcement of the civil rights laws. These strategies range from a redesigned case process that focuses on resolution, achieving effective change, and attaining civil rights compliance through greater reliance on collaboration with schools and partners. This Report also describes some of the results achieved by empowering students and parents to solve their own problems in securing equal access to quality education. Among other benefits, this partnership helps ensure that the positive actions taken by educational institutions continue even after OCR completes its monitoring activities.

In promoting equity and excellence in education, OCR has been dedicated to marrying efficiency with effectiveness. Our dedication to this endeavor was recently noted in findings released by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) on March 23, 1999, confirming significant improvements resulting from OCR's case resolution process. GAO's study reported that, over a four-year period, OCR succeeded in reducing the average time to resolve complaints and the inventory of unresolved complaints. These improvements occurred despite an increasing number and complexity in the complaint workload and a concurrent decline in OCR's resources.

During fiscal year 1999, OCR was able to make a real difference in the lives of students. This Report provides examples from the millions of students whose educational lives were improved as a result of our work. It is critical that we build on these accomplishments. Together, we must augment our efforts in bringing access to high quality education to all students. If we can rise to this challenge, we will be able to seize the enormous opportunities of the new millennium.

Respectfully submitted,


Norma V. Cantú

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