From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
June 14, 2000
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Cautiously optimistic, yet skeptical, of OCR Committee report
Statement of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
Senator Rodney Ellis
Representative Garnet Coleman

We have preliminarily reviewed the draft report of the OCR Issues Committee regarding Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M and are cautiously optimistic about their recommendations and the course the committee has charted. We appreciated the hard work of the committee on this challenging issue. But, given our history of big plans and broken promises when it comes to issues of discrimination, we are rightly skeptical about whether we will ever see results.

This plan, if implemented, represents a modest start toward ensuring Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M achieve a level of quality that will enhance educational opportunities and improve the lives of many Texans. However, it is a rather modest downpayment to solve such a major historical problem. Remember, this is the fourth plan drafted in the past twenty years to address vestiges of discrimination in Texas higher education and little progress has been made to date. In fact, it has been nearly three decades since the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights first found that vestiges of discrimination continued to haunt Texas' colleges and universities. We have not seen much progress over the years, so it is hard to get too excited about yet another plan.

In our view, several questions remain unanswered. Because the Office of Civil Rights played such a small role in the actual drafting of this report, do the OCR Issues Committee recommendations go far enough to ensure Texas finally meets the minimum requirements mandated by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Have federal officials given Texas assurances that this plan takes the necessary steps to eliminate vestiges of discrimination in higher education and to ensure that African Americans and persons of color have adequate opportunity to receive a college education? How soon will we see an official report from this committee and has the State of Texas given assurances that it will actually keep its promise and enact these recommendations and provide this minimal level of funding? Because of the track record we believe prudence demands our skepticism.

Overall, this report represents a first step toward ensuring Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M are provided the resources they need to overcome past discrimination and compete in the 21st Century. We look forward to working with the Office of Civil Rights, the OCR Issues Committee, education leaders across Texas and the Legislature to take the next step and implement these policies. But this should only be the next phase, not the end, of the effort to eliminate vestiges of discrimination in Texas higher education. We can no longer quietly accept broken promises on this issue.

For more information, contact:
Oliver Kellman, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
( 202) 225-3816

Jeremy Warren, Senator Rodney Ellis
(512) 463-0113

Caton Fenz, Representative Garnet Coleman
(512) 463-0524