Voluntary school integration funding: At a school diversity event in Louisville last week, Secretary John King announced the “Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities” grant competition. Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities offers up to $12 million for 20 districts or groups of districts for the purpose of developing plans to increase socioeconomic integration in K-12 schools. This announcement was an extension of policies announced last year to use a portion of the annual “School Improvement Grant” funds to promote voluntary school integration efforts at the local district level. The program announcement oddly shies away from promoting racial integration, but allows that racial integration plans are eligible as long as they also promote economic integration.
In a related development, the Obama Administration’s final NOFA for the 30-year old Magnet Schools Assistance Program was released, with excellent language and priority for school diversity and inclusion – see the notice here.
Two steps forward, one step back on LIHTC: Last week the Treasury Department issued three long awaited civil rights related documents, echoing the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Inclusive Communities Project v. Texas, and emphasizing the applicability of the Fair Housing Act to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit:
1) Revenue Ruling 2016-29 confirms that the LIHTC statute does not require local support or contribution in state LIHTC plans (and the ruling helpfully notes that LIHTC is subject to the Fair Housing Act and its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing obligation);
2) Notice 2016-77 indicates that the required preference for a “Concerted Community Revitalization Plan” in projects selected in higher poverty census tracts has to be an actual plan, and must include something more than just the LIHTC project itself (the notice solicits comments by February 10 on what that “more” should include); and
3) a final Title VI regulation to implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act at the Department, which once again omits LIHTC from the list of covered Treasury programs. In spite of this disappointing outcome, the final Title VI regulation does hold open the possibility that LIHTC might be added to the list at a later date, and also states that “the absence of a program or activity from the list does not by such absence limit the applicability of Title VI to that program or activity” (!)
Although we wish that the Department had gone further, it is important to recognize that these new civil rights announcements are a major step forward for an agency that has long been resistant to change…
Fair Housing and GSE reform: Also last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency issued its final “duty to serve” regulation, which includes incentives for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support “residential economic diversity activity” in connection with mortgages on: (1) affordable housing in a high opportunity area; or (2) mixed-income housing in an area of concentrated poverty. See the final rule here (starting at page 173). For more context, see this March 2016 comment letter from civil rights and fair housing groups on the proposed rule.
International human rights in the courts: The Opportunity Agenda and Northeastern University School of Law’s Program on Human Rights in the Global Economy have just issued “Human Rights in State Courts 2016,” a periodic report that reviews state court decisions and Attorneys General opinions.
Segregation, Race, and Charter Schools: the National Education Policy Center takes issue with a Brookings Institute report on charters – worth checking out this scholarly interchange between liberal think tanks!
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: congratulations to civil rights champions Catherine Lhamon and Debo Adegbile, who have just been appointed by President Obama to the Commission (which could be an even more interesting and relevant institution over the next several years…)