Equal Educational Opportunities Act (1974): History & Impact

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

The Equal Educational Opportunities Act (EEOA) 1974 protects against discrimination and segregation. Students with language barriers are protected as well. This lesson discusses the history and impact of this vital piece of legislation.

Equal Educational Opportunities Act

It may be hard to believe, but America hasn't always been a place where equal educational opportunities were guaranteed to all. The Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA) changed public education for the better. The act guaranteed education free of bias and discrimination, or unequal treatment, for all people. The EEOA is one of a set of federal laws that works to prohibit discrimination in schools. Specifically, EEOA bans discrimination based on race, nationality, color, or sex against faculty, staff, and students.


The EEOA is rooted in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) and the civil rights movement. Brown vs. Board of Education declared that segregation, such as sending anglo and Hispanic students to different schools, is illegal. Some attribute the ruling as setting the stage for the civil rights movement, equality in education was one of the rights that advocates fought for in the civil rights movement. In July of 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed a law, which was passed by Congress, called the Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act ended racial discrimination in any program or function involving funding by the federal government. Also, the act banned discrimination based on age, creed and national origin.

President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Department of Education, formerly called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, issued further guidance in 1970 to say that all students should receive equal educational opportunities. The memo added that those students who are English language learners should receive services to help them learn English and that schools cannot place students in special education programs only because they do not speak English. The memo also stated that parents had the right to receive communication from schools in a language that they understand.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon proposed a more explicit definition of equal educational opportunity and called for a more consistent set of standards for judicial rulings related to transportation and equal education for all. He proposed the EEOA, although it was not passed until after the Supreme Court ruled on Lau v. Nichols in 1974. This court ruling was in favor of students with limited English abilities who had not been provided adequate services by their school district according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the memo issued by the Department of Education.

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