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Every Student Deserves a Chance
Educating Americans is our biggest priority and should be our biggest investment.
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) on a desk. Courtesy of Shutterstock.
Education is clearly necessary. A Republican congresswoman reminds us…
During the education boom of the 1960s, President Johnson signed legislation that enabled federal funding for primary and secondary education. It included resources for students and staff, like professional development. Most importantly, it began an age of increased federal involvement in American schools. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act was also meant to close the opportunity gap for lower-income Americans by supporting the funding of their school systems.
The ESEA has been reauthorized and rewritten to make different reforms over the last several generations. Some of those reforms include changing the parameters around funding eligibility to repurposing the goals of the legislation altogether. More recently, the legislation survived attempts by the Reagan administration to turn the ESEA into block grant programs. After this, the legislative conversation focused more on achievements and testing over financing. This was reflected in the Clinton administration’s Improving America’s Schools Act of 1994 and the younger Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Bush and other conservative executives within the federal government wanted to reform education within the framework of empowering localities. However, the consensus by both parties (at this time) ended up ceding territory to the federal government and reinvigorated its role in overseeing a narrowing of the achievement gaps. An influx of federal money followed.
Though, many did not celebrate the recent changes to the legislation when the time to reauthorize it rolled around again. People complained the money was not spent effectively and that the testing systems could be biased or not a meaningful indicator of different types of knowledge and skills.
However, this testing strain of thinking went into the Obama administration’s reauthorization, the Every Student Succeeds Act.
But, it gave more emphasis to the states on policing school standards through testing while giving the Department of Education some control over making sure standards set by each individual state were worthy and realistic. Many considered this a win for conservative views on education. The Obama administration also required states to add their own fifth indicator outside of the four demanded by the federal government (English language proficiency, elementary and middle school student growth, language arts/math assessments, and high school graduation rates). Many states used absences as the fifth indicator.
ESSA also aims to give students more flexibility on the types of tests being taken - like allowing districts to give high school students the choice between the ACT and the SAT.
The Trump administration eliminated the Obama administration’s accountability standards upon taking office. Donald Trump also mentioned eliminating the Department of Education in his campaign.
Recently, education fights have centered on school choice, federal vouchers, and the curriculums themselves.
The Republicans have steeped themselves in demeaning messages revealing their bigoted fabrications of the day: like “critical race theory”, attempts to make the lives of LGBTQ kids (or kids with LGBTQ parents) more difficult, and alleging that teachers are “grooming” children. There is not much meaningful or pleasant discourse from the Republican Party today.
On the fiscal side, school choice advocates argue that parents should be given the option to send their kids to better schools with federal vouchers - even if the system undermines the economics of traditionally-funded public education. This could initiate a brain drain to occur at government-funded schools and expedite the seeds of educational inequality through anti-community privatization.
People in America should feel like they have the option to intellectually mobilize even if they did not come from a well-resourced family or are unable to just choose another school. Plus, the unsustainability of vouchers means that people will be inevitably pushed back into schools that featured the aforementioned drain in talent or private schools will overflow due to the overuse of vouchers.
A lot of conservatives advocate for this and shed a larger disdain for the public square in general. Privatization is not a full-proof method for everything out of one’s comfort zone.
Today, the Biden administration seeks to expand the federal government’s role in education as a larger campaign promise to emphasize equity in education. Also, the Biden administration recently called for increases in funding for special education initiatives.
The public needs education. It is the lifeblood of democracies and the key to the gates of opportunity. A nation that turns its back on supplying education to the most people possible is a nation destined for plutocracy, idiocracy, and kleptocracy.
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