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Biden announces new grants to further desegregate schools on Brown v. Board anniversary

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden on Friday announced new grants aimed at further desegregating magnet schools, as he marked the 70th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that desegregated America’s public schools.

“My Department of Education is investing $300 million, including another $20 million announced today to support diversity in our schools,” Biden said in remarks at an NAACP event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The $20 million in new grants is for school districts in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina and Texas, to create magnet programs geared toward “attracting students from different social, economic, ethnic and racial backgrounds,” the White House said.

The Education Department earlier this week released a report that found there remain gaps in education among Black and Latino students and their white counterparts in high school math, science and computer science.

The White House frames these steps as an effort to “continue the work” of the landmark Supreme Court ruling.

“After [the] Brown vs. Board [of Education] decision, the public schools gradually — and often much too slowly — were integrated. Graduation rates for Black and Latino students increased significantly though,” Biden said. “The Brown decision proves a simple idea: we learn better when we learn together.”

Biden used his speech to take on political rival, former President Donald Trump, whom he referenced simply as “my predecessor.”

“My predecessor, and his extreme MAGA friends, are now going after diversity, equity and inclusion all across America. They want a country for some, not for all,” the president said.

Biden sought to draw a contrast between himself and Trump.

“I’ve always believed that the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed, and I mean that, everyone to succeed,” Biden said. “That’s what Brown is all about. That’s what we’re all about. That’s what America’s about.”

The grant announcement is part of a larger multi-day push by the Biden administration to make inroads with Black voters who his campaign is counting on in November’s presidential election.

On Thursday, the administration announced it is taking formal next steps to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. Also, Biden met with plaintiffs from the landmark Brown case and their families on Thursday.

“Once upon a time, they were excluded from certain classrooms. But 70 years later, they’re inside the most important room of all, the Oval Office, where they belong,” Biden said. “They’re a living reminder that once upon a time, wasn’t that long ago.”

Biden added that despite this progress, there is more to do.

Biden also said that before his remarks on Friday he met with the “Little Rock Nine,” the children who first integrated their district’s public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Later Friday, Biden was set to meet privately with the leaders of the historically Black “Divine Nine” fraternities and sororities, before traveling this weekend to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta.

“The founders of Morehouse understood something fundamental: education is linked to freedom,” Biden said. “Because to be free means to have something that no one can ever take away from you. And that’s the power of an education. That’s why the Brown decision to commemorate today is so important.”

Biden also used his remarks to tout the work his administration is doing in higher education to ease the economic toll on young people.

“While college degrees are still a ticket to the middle class, that ticket is becoming too expensive,” Biden said. “Too many, too many young people, Black students are dealing with unsustainable debts in exchange for a college degree.”

Michelle Stoddart contributed to this report.

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