Obama Wants To Get Rich And Poor Kids In The Same Classroom

Now Congress just has to approve the plan.

02/09/2016 12:28 pm ET
Pool via Getty Images
President Barack Obama hugs outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as his nominee to replace Duncan, John B. King Jr., looks on in October 2015.

After years of inaction on the issue, the Obama administration is taking new steps to help schools achieve socioeconomic diversity. 

Included in the president's proposed 2017 budget is a $120 million competitive grant program to help districts devise and implement plans to get rich and poor children in the same classrooms. The initiative -- called Stronger Together -- provides funds for five-year projects to districts and groups of districts. The projects should allow schools to explore "ways to foster socioeconomic diversity through a robust process of parental, educator and community engagement, and data analysis," the proposed budget says.

The budget proposal comes days after former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan expressed disappointment with his inability to move the needle on the issue of school segregation during his seven years at the White House. 

“I would give myself a pretty low grade on that,” Duncan told education news outlet The 74

Duncan's successor, John King Jr., has indicated that he will prioritize the issue of school diversity. 

"In today’s economy, diversity isn’t some vague ideal. It’s a path to better outcomes for all of America’s children. And the proposal we are announcing today will help show us the most effective ways [to] meet that goal," King wrote in a Tuesday blog post about Stronger Together. 

Research from the UCLA Civil Rights Project shows that American schools have become increasingly racially segregated since the late 1960s -- despite evidence showing that racially and socioeconomically integrated classrooms are academically beneficial for all children

While most programs enforcing racial integration in schools have been dismantled, a new report from The Century Foundation shows that programs promoting socioeconomic integration in schools have been on the rise. Since 2007, the number of school districts and charter schools supporting socioeconomic integration has more than doubled, the report shows. 

The White House's proposed budget comes months after Congress passed a new major education law to replace the long-expired No Child Left Behind Act, called the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Included in the budget is a 2 percent increase in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, for a total of $69.4 billion. The budget also includes $139.7 billion in new mandatory spending, including $75 billion for efforts to increase access to preschool and $4 billion for President Barack Obama's recently announced Computer Science for All initiative.

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