Bush: Achievement Gap an Urgent Civil Rights Issue

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The disparity in access to a quality education between white and black children remains one of America’s “most urgent civil rights issues,” former President George W. Bush said Tuesday.

“Education in America is no longer legally separate, but it is still not effectively equal,” Bush said during a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. “Quality education of everyone of every background remains one of the most urgent civil rights issues of our time.”

The “achievement gap,” as it has been dubbed, is something Bush attempted to address early into his presidency with the “No Child Left Behind Act.”

Though the legislation passed with bipartisan support, the law drew criticism from educators who said it focused too much on improving student test scores and not enough on helping them learn.

“Every legislative instrument eventually requires adjustment. But the problem comes when people start to give up on the goal,” Bush said.

“I fear that the soft bigotry of low expectations is returning,” he added.

President Barack Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also spoke at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. The event celebrated both LBJ’s work to reform the country’s civil and voting rights laws and the progress the country has made over the past half century.

But each of the presidents who spoke warned that the country still has plenty of work to do before the goals of Civil Rights Era are met.