Saturday, February 7, 2015

Democrats For Public Education: Reauthorize The ESEA

Right now, Congress is working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This is important. At its core, ESEA is all about equality and ensuring a level playing field for all children. Originally part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, ESEA provides critical support to programs which level the playing field for our most at-risk students by allowing them equal access to educational opportunities.

All children, regardless of race, background, or income deserve resources and opportunities which will help them to learn and to grow. It’s our responsibility to help them cultivate a lifelong love of learning. And we must also provide the tools they need to get ahead, even if their communities can’t afford them. Teachers should be given more time to teach, and children should be given more time to learn. Unfortunately, under “No Child Left Behind”, we’ve seen far too much focus on high-stakes testing and not enough on student learning.

So it’s crucial that states receive the funding needed to create that level playing field. A few weeks ago, DPE Co-Chair US Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) allowing states to use federal funds to identify and eliminate redundant tests. It’s one of many proactive steps Democrats all across America are taking to make sure we don’t lose the forest for the trees by focusing on high-stakes standardized testing. These exams and the time spent preparing for them cannot come at the expense of meaningful education opportunities for our kids.

For the United States to remain the world’s most creative, dynamic nation, we need to make sure we’re leaving room for all subjects – not just the ones on these narrow tests. And maybe Kindergarten students don’t really need to take “college and career readiness” tests after all.

As DPE Co-Chair Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) recently said, “Giving our children a head start is only the beginning. We must also provide sufficient funding for our educators' professional development, learning aids, education technology, and useful assessment tools. With consistent funding and policies that adapt to our students' changing needs, more students will actually graduate high school.”

DPE Co-Chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) has strongly advocated for robust funding for our public schools within ESEA and has criticized Republican proposals to slash funding for critical programs within ESEA.

As Democrats for Public Education, we believe we should dial back the obsession on testing that is stressing kids out and stopping teachers from doing their jobs. Instead, we must turn up the focus on learning. That means focusing on engaging kids, providing instructional funding and leveling the economic playing field. ESEA is largest source of federal spending on elementary and secondary education. Its reauthorization is a chance to set a new vision for public education - one that that promotes opportunity, equality and excellence for all kids in all communities.


Steve Rosenthal
Democrats For Public Education, President

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