CCSSO Honors Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 2021 Distinguished Service Award

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Washington, D.C. (March 24, 2021) – The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today presented its 2021 Distinguished Service Award to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Distinguished Service Award is the Council’s highest honor and recognizes individuals whose contributions have given strength to pre-K-12 public education in the United States. This premier award of the Council has been presented over a period of 60 years. With this award, CCSSO recognizes extensive, long-term service and commitment to improving education. 

Justice Ginsburg spent her career breaking barriers for women and girls and working to create access to a high-quality education for more students. Her work with the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union ensured women had equal access to credit and the responsibility to serve on juries and showed how assumptions about gender and caregiving discriminated against men. While serving on the Supreme Court, she played pivotal roles in cases on school desegregation, student privacy rights, and diversity in higher education.

Justice Ginsburg believed in fighting for the things you care about but doing so in a way that will lead others to join you. We are proud to follow that example in our advocacy for a more equitable education system for all students,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “Justice Ginsburg dedicated her life to creating a more equitable world for all people, and she will serve as a role model for all children, for generations to come.”

Hawai’i State Superintendent Christina Kishimoto presented the award as part of CCSSO’s Legislative Conference. 

“The CCSSO board selected Justice Ginsburg as this year’s honoree in recognition of her life-long advocacy for gender equality and equal access to education and the workplace,” Kishimoto said. “She broke barriers that seemed unthinkable and unmovable at the time and taught us what it means to be a true champion for social justice. We are committed to honoring Justice Ginsburg’s inspirational legacy by continuing to step forward and fight for equality for all students, all women, all people.”

Sesame Street creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett received the Distinguished Service Award last year. Previous recipients include Wisconsin Gov. and former state Superintendent Tony Evers, President Lyndon Johnson, Marian Wright Edelman, and the four architects of the Every Student Succeeds Act: Sen. Lamar Alexander, Rep. John Kline, Sen. Patty Murray, and Rep. Bobby Scott.


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, Bureau of Indian Education, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.

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