Washington, DC – In advance of today’s Senate HELP Committee Hearing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2011, a bipartisan coalition of 29 civil rights groups, business associations, statewide education officials, and education advocates withholding support for the bill due to the absence of accountability measures continues to grow and now includes StudentsFirst, the United Negro College Fund, the National Down Syndrome Congress, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Advocacy Institute, the Children’s Defense Fund, Public Advocates, and the Center for Law and Education.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a key member of this coalition, will testify at tomorrow’s hearing. A portion of his statement is as follows:
“Accountability is a core civil rights principle and one that’s indispensable to advancing our common goals of closing achievement gaps and maintaining our country’s competitiveness in a global economy. Federal funding must be attached to firm, ambitious, and unequivocal demands for higher achievement, better high school graduation rates, and closing achievement gaps.
We recognize that the Committee made several improvements to the current ESEA that were supported by many members of our coalition, such as requiring more equitable funding within districts, better disaggregation of data by both gender and race, a focus on access to high-level STEM courses for underrepresented groups, and additional protections for foster children in the public education system.
Unfortunately, these improvements are overshadowed by the bill’s historic retreat on accountability. And because of this retreat, dozens of civil rights, education and business organizations – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – have determined that we cannot support the bill at this time.
The education gaps in communities represented by The Leadership Conference will never be closed if we abandon accountability in public education. This bill’s approach is a drastic reversal of a policy which held all schools accountable and now only asks the bottom five percent for any meaningful improvements. By going too far in marginalizing the focus on only the most disadvantaged students, many others will continue to fall through the cracks. We must condition federal aid on setting and meeting high standards, not playing to the lowest denominator.”