WASHINGTON - In the wake of news that the New York City Department of Education is being forced by the federal government to classify the race of students without the benefit of the “some other race” category, Congressman José E. Serrano strongly urged Education Secretary Arne Duncan to halt this effort until the categories can be fixed. In a news report, Secretary Duncan said the categories were tied to the U.S. Census, but this is a misunderstanding of the Census Bureau’s policy.
“I worked for many years to ensure that the Census provides a variety of racial and ethnic options including those that the NYC Department of Education is being forced to leave out today,” said Serrano. “I feel very strongly that our official statistics on race and ethnicity, whether they are collected by the Census or the U.S. Department of Education, must fairly represent the multiracial society that we live in. Using the existing census categories for questions on race and Hispanic origin will give us a better and more accurate understanding of who we are as a nation.
“It is also important to note that in addition to providing a ‘some other race’ category on the race question, the Census Bureau also specifically asks about the Hispanic Origin of individuals. By seemingly removing both options from the NYC Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education is creating a situation where Hispanics will almost certainly be undercounted. It is unclear why the U.S. Department of Education would attempt to classify the race of school children across America in a way that is unlawful for the Census Bureau.
“If there is unwillingness on the part of the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider this flawed policy, I will be happy to offer language to their annual appropriations that will require them to do so. We have reached a consensus with the Census Bureau on inclusion of the “some other race” category and I do not take the idea of schools being forced to do the opposite lightly.”