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Unit 4 Champaign School District is not meeting the needs of black students.

Please read the below from the American Civil Liberties Union of Champaign County (ACLU).

Champaign ACLU & NAACP Urge Unit 4 Schools to Create Plan to Address Persistent Racial Disparities

CONTACT: Carol Spindel 217-898-8054

Minnie Pearson 217-369-4958


CHAMPAIGN – Racial disparities continue to be a problem in Champaign Unit 4 Schools a full decade after the District was released from accountability under a federal court agreement meant to address racial segregation in the Unit. The NAACP Champaign County Branch and the Champaign County Chapter of the ACLU of Illinois raised concerns – and called on the District to address these issues – in a letter sent to school officials today. Representatives from the two groups will be present for the December 9th Board of Education meeting to further outline the concerns.


The groups point to numerous areas of concerns, including a wide gap in proficiency in English language and math among White and Black students. Data provided by the Illinois State Board of Education show that in Unit 4, just 8% of Black children are proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) while 47% of White students are proficient.  In Math, just 6% of Black children achieved proficiency compared to nearly one half (49%) of White children achieved that proficiency.


These racial disparities also show up in disciplinary action in Unit 4 schools. Ten years ago, when federal oversight of schools was still in place, Black students were 5.5 times more likely to be suspended than White students. This year, according to data from the Education Equity Excellence Committee, that gap has grown to 8.7 times more likely for Black students.


Ten years ago, when federal oversight of Unit 4 was lifted, the then-Superintendent noted that a “diverse community requires many strategies for true inclusion, and we continue to seek community connections.” The letter makes clear that Unit 4 must recommit itself to this aspiration and finally fulfill its commitment to treating all students in a truly equitable fashion.


December 9, 2019



Dear Members of the Champaign Board of Education and Superintendent Zola,


The American Civil Liberties Union of Champaign County and the NAACP Champaign County
Branch are deeply concerned about the increasing racial disparities in both achievement and disciplinary action in the Unit 4 Schools. Ten years after the consent decree to improve racial equity was terminated in 2009, we would expect to find significant improvement. Instead, tragically for the students and families of Champaign, the situation has deteriorated.


The disparity in English language and math proficiency between white students and black students has widened into a chasm. Only 8% of black children attending Unit 4 schools are proficient in English Language Arts (ELA) and only 6% of black children are proficient in math, compared to 47% ELA proficiency and 49% math proficiency for white children. Proficiency rates for black children in Unit 4 are roughly half the rate for black children statewide [Illinois State Board of Education 2018].


According to The Educational Opportunity Project at Stanford University, which collects data nationwide, there is a gap of more than three grades between white and black students in Champaign schools. White students test 1.45 grades above average while black students test 2.14 grades below average. []

  In Champaign, white students are 7.1 times more likely to take Advanced Placement classes in high school than black students. This disturbing ratio compares unfavorably to 2.4 in adjacent Urbana, 1.9 in Illinois and 1.8 nationwide. [ProPublica:


One factor may be disparities in access to gifted education at the elementary level. According to data presented to the Education Equity Excellence Committee on August 29, 2019, black students are seriously under-represented in the Unit 4 gifted programs in contrast to white and Asian students. Our goal is not to reduce access for those groups, but to understand why black students are under-represented and how this disparity can be remedied to benefit all Champaign students. We urge the school district to collect clearer data on its gifted education programs and to ensure that gifted education does not contribute to re-segregation and disparities in educational outcomes.


The consent decree also addressed racial disparities in discipline. In 2009 black students were 5.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. [Monitoring Report number 5, June 22, 2009] According to data from last year, black students were 8.7 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers [Education Equity Excellence Committee, April 30, 2019]. This indicates that the situation has worsened substantially.


We know that Unit 4 has attempted to improve racial equity, but it is clear to both organizations that more effective measures must be implemented without delay. Please let us know when you can meet with us to specify how you intend to address these inequities and better serve all the students of your school district. Please respond by email to




ACLU of Champaign County and NAACP Champaign County Branch

Carol Spindel and Minnie Pearson, Presidents


ACLU Steering Committee:                           NAACP-CC Officers:

Tony Allegretti                                   Blanton Bondurant, First Vice-President

            Bill Brown                                          Artice James, Treasurer

            Barbara Hudgings                               Marilyn Banks, Secretary

            Bob Illyes

            Bob Kugel

            Carol Leff

            Ben Mueller

            Esther Patt

            Leslie Reagan

            Richard Schnuer

            Melissa Schoeplein

            Karl Weingartner

            Marsha Woodbury

            Ruth Wyman