Challenging the Constitutionality of Teacher Prep Programs

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The Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative legal foundation headed by William Perry Pendley, is arguing that the federally financed American Indian Teacher Corps, which is designed to attract Native Americans into teaching, violates the 14th Amendments equal- protection clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In a letter to four universities that house such programs, Mr. Pendley explained the Foundation was angered by what they saw as racial discrimination and explained that they believed "[e]ducators of the future should not be told they are the wrong race to compete for a scholarship or to teach their fellow citizens." Since the American Indian Teacher Corps was created in 2000, the federal government has provided $33 million in grants to Native American tribes, states, and districts, which have in turn produced 850 teachers and 250 administrators for predominantly Native American communities. Rennard Strickland, a law professor at the University of Oregon, one of four universities that the Legal Foundation is challenging, didn't think Mr. Pendley had much of a leg to stand on: "It strikes me as strange, given congressional action and case law that [they] would suggest this."