President George W. Bush closed the Civil Rights Summit in Austin by focusing on how education and access to higher education can be the great equalizer for many people. Bush said he feared the soft bigotry of low expectations is returning
Bush detailed efforts by President Lyndon Baines Johnson that led to the signing of the Elementary and Second Education Act, which focused new funding on the lowest funding school district and creation of Head Start. Bush said despite those efforts, education in America is still not effectively equal.
"Quality education for every one of every background remains one of the most urgent civil rights issues of our time,” Bush said.
Bush detailed how programs like No Child Left Behind increased minority reading levels by several grade points but said those efforts, and progress, has stalled.
"The problem comes when some start to give up on the goal, some have ideological objections to any federal role in education," Bush said. "Some are too comfortable with the status quo; the alliance between ideology and complacency seems to be getting stronger. I fear that the self-bigotry of low expectations is returning and for the sake of America’s children that is something we cannot allow.”
He said there is a growing temptation among public officials in both political parties at the federal state and local level to lower expectations.
Bush said the current achievement gap between white students and minority student is a scandal that deserves immediate attention. He said the goal of ending achievement gaps should unite Republicans and Democrats who both ask for accountability for current federal education programs.