Seeking a new education agenda in Every Child Achieves Act

Posted by: Gordon on 7/13/2015

Last week 43 Gamaliel affiliates and more than 100 other faith, community and labor groups sent a letter outlining an education agenda that supports communities to U.S. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell, R-KY and Harry Reid, D-NV.

Spearheaded by the Journey for Justice Alliance of organizations of Black and Brown parents and students in 23 states and Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the letter calls for reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act without requiring oppressive, high-stakes, standardized testing and sanctions that have recently been promoted as civil rights provisions within ESEA.

The Senate is debating renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this week (the House approved its version of the bill, which has been named the Every Child Achieves Act, the week of July 6).

Sign on letter last week to McConnell, Reid

Education advocates demonstrate the parallel between the criminal justice system’s disproportionate impact on people of color and the decreasing level of democracy and public control over education in communities of color:

Standardized tests are used as the reason why voting rights are removed from Black and Brown voters—a civil right every bit as important as education.

Our schools and school districts are regularly judged to be failures—and then stripped of local control through the appointment of state takeover authorities that eliminate democratic process and our local voice—and have yet so far largely failed to actually improve the quality of education our children receive.

As the debate continued this week, news reports suggested the Senate may ignore this input, making organizing at the national level as important as ongoing local advocacy efforts.

The letter follows a statement in March when the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools wrote House and Senate leadership, with four recommendations for ESEA Reauthorization. The recommendations included: 

  1. Community schools. First, there are 5,000 community schools in America today, providing an array of wrap around services and after school programs to children and their families. These community schools serve over 5 million children, and we want to double that number and intensify the effort. We are calling for a significant investment in creating thousands more sustainable community schools. They provide a curriculum that is engaging, relevant and challenging, supports for quality teaching and not standardized testing, wrap-around supports for every child, a student centered culture and finally, transformative parent and community engagement. We call on the federal government to provide $1 billion toward that goal, and we are asking our local governments to decrease the high stakes standardized testing with its expensive test prep programs and divert those funds into resourcing more sustainable community schools.
  2. Second, we want to include restorative justice and positive approaches to discipline in all of our sustainable community schools, so we are calling on the federal government to provide $500 million for restorative justice coordinators and training in all of our sustainable community schools.
  3. Third, to finally move toward fully resourcing Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, we call on the federal government to provide $20 billion this year for the schools that serve the most low income students, and more in future years until we finally reach the 40% increase in funding for poor schools that the Act originally envisioned.
  4. Finally, we ask for a moratorium on the federal Charter Schools Program, which has pumped over $3 billion into new charter schools, many of which have already closed, or have failed the students drawn to them by the illusive promise of quality. We want the resources that all our schools deserve – we don’t need more schools. We need better ones.

Stay tuned to hear what happens at the national level! 

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