As Congress gears up to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it is time to return to the law's moral and legal roots as a vehicle to ensure civil rights and equal opportunity for all children, particularly those most at risk, AFT President Randi Weingarten says.
"Fifty years ago, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of the War on Poverty," she says. "It sought, as all federal policy regarding education should, to provide equal access to a high-quality education for all kids."
The AFT has outlined policy priorities that the reauthorization should address so the law's original purpose can be restored and the factors that undermine that goal are reversed.
"Inequity, and the fixation on high-stakes tests that has eclipsed all other learning and accountability measures, must be fixed," Weingarten says. "To that end, we must expand the law with support for big ideas, such as community schools and wraparound services; project-based learning; service internships; and individual plans for over-age students, under-credited students and those who are not reading at grade level by third grade. These ideas will help address the fact that two-thirds of what affects student achievement occurs outside the classroom.
"Let's face it: Any law that doesn't address our biggest challenges—funding inequity, segregation, the effects of poverty—will fail to make the sweeping transformation our kids and our schools need. We're ready and willing to work with Congress; the White House; civil rights, education, business, community and civic organizations; parents; students; educators; and anyone else, to ensure that the reauthorization of ESEA moves us closer to the goal of reclaiming the promise of public education for each and every child."
[AFT press release]