(Washington, DC) – Today, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Deputy Secretary John King, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), other civil rights advocates, teachers, and students in a Capitol Hill roundtable discussion about education policy and funding as the debate around reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) continues in Congress.
LDF emphasized the importance of maintaining federal oversight and accountability that have been hallmarks of the law since its inception fifty years ago. In 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson called the newly enacted ESEA “a major new commitment of the federal government, to quality and equality in the schooling we offer our young people.” Johnson envisioned ESEA as a lever out of poverty, providing federal aid to help mitigate the effects of concentrated poverty and inequitable local funding and opening access to quality education for low-income children and children of color. While that federal role has stood for over half a century, the House and Senate ESEA reauthorization bills take the unprecedented steps of eviscerating that federal role.
“It is critical to maintain the spirit and vision of the original ESEA as this important civil rights legislation is finalized,” says Janel George, Senior Education Policy Counsel at LDF. “We must maintain a federal mechanism to hold states accountable for addressing inequities, especially those impacting sub-groups of students–including students of color, students with disabilities, English Learners, and low-income students–to ensure that we close achievement gaps and improve high school graduation rates”
The current iterations of the ESEA bills lack accountability and fail to preserve the ability of the federal government to intervene when states do not meaningfully close achievement gaps, equitably distribute resources, or promote inclusive school climates. As such, it is essentially rendered ineffective.
LDF’s priorities for ESEA passage are as follows: