WASHINGTON – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, released the following statement on the U.S. Department of Education’s recent decision to “streamline” its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver renewal process:
“The Department of Education’s decision to extend ESEA waivers marks an unconscionable retreat from a decades-long federal commitment to improving educational opportunities and outcomes. This decision will exacerbate existing inequities in our education system that are preventing the success of millions of disadvantaged students.
Allowing states to continue disregarding important equity requirements in Title I of ESEA without first determining that these waivers are actually helping students is nothing short of an abdication of the department’s primary duty: to ensure that Title I funds are used to provide students in high-poverty schools with the supplemental resources they need to catch up to their peers and meet state academic standards.
To date, the department has provided no evidence that the first round of waivers brought about any significant improvements in student achievement or graduation rates for students of color, low-income students, students with disabilities, or English learners. Nor does the department have any meaningful data on whether states are closing the teacher-quality gap or providing equal access to Common Core-aligned curriculum. Finally, there is no evidence that rolling back accountability requirements has enabled states to turn around low-performing schools or helped more disadvantaged students meet state standards in reading or math.
By capitulating to the demands of states – many of which have long and lamentable histories of segregation, inequality, fiscal inequity, and persistent failure to educate millions of children – the department has confirmed what many in the civil and human rights community feared all along: these ESEA waivers are less about students and more about alleviating adult responsibility to educate them.
In a time of increased global competitiveness, high unemployment (particularly among people of color), and growing skills-based job markets, the need for an educated citizenry is critical. Now is a time to invest in all students and build pathways to postsecondary education and successful careers. The cost to our nation’s future is too great to let states off the hook and let down millions of American children who deserve the very best we have to give them.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.