Norma Cantú brings exceptional practical and policy-making experience to her new joint appointment in the Education and Law Schools at UT. For eight years, she served as the Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights in the Clinton Administration, where she oversaw a staff of approximately 850 in implementing governmental policy for civil rights in American education. Within the first two years, her office increased the number of illegal discrimination complaints resolved by 20%; more than a third of the cases were disposed of without adversarial proceedings based on voluntary corrective action. By her final year in office, the number of cases resolved each year had risen almost another 20%.
Prior to her service as the nation's chief civil rights enforcer in the educational arena, Professor Cantú worked for fourteen years as regional counsel and education director of the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In that capacity, she litigated scores of important cases affecting educational funding, disability rights, student disciplinary policies, access to special services for English-language learners, and racially hostile environments.
Professor Cantú graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas-Pan American at the age of 19, taught high school English, and then enrolled at Harvard Law School, where she graduated at the age of 22.