Student Bill of Rights Picks Up Major Endorsements

Washington, DC – The Student Bill of Rights, H.R. 1295 (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.1295:), re-introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), has received the endorsement of 28 educational, parental, religious and civil rights organizations. The letter of support came from organizations that have long reinforced Fattah’s efforts to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

 

The Student Bill of Rights ensures all students have access to the educational resources needed to be successful: highly effective teachers, rigorous curricula, early childhood education, and instructional materials including educational technology.  If students are to excel, Fattah concludes these fundamentals must be the centerpiece of all school resource allocation.

 

“Our students are some of the brightest in the world and we must invest in their future,” said Fattah. “The Student Bill of Rights will equip them with the educational keys to unlock their full potential and help them realize that anything is possible.”

 

In their letter, leaders from the various organizations wrote that Congress should take the lead in bringing together the federal government and the states to work in partnership to overcome opportunity gaps, “School funding systems in the majority of states remain heavily reliant on local property taxes, a taxing system that disadvantages children and schools in communities without significant local property wealth. In this year of fiscal crisis across the states, the federal government’s leadership for equity is urgently needed to make these injustices visible and to work with the states to begin to remedy what Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond has called America’s obstinate commitment to educational inequality.”

 

The support letter was signed by: ACTION UNITED – Pennsylvania, American Library Association, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, Communities for Excellent Schools, Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice, Disciples Justice Action Network, Education Law Center (ELC), FairTest, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, The Forum for Education and Democracy, Gamaliel Foundation, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Metro Organizations for People (MOP) – Denver, Colorado, National Alliance of Black School Educators, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative, National Council of Jewish Women, Organizers in the Land of Enchantment – New Mexico, Parents Across America, Parents United for Responsible Education -Chicago, Peninsula Interfaith Action – San Carlos, California, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Public Education Network (PEN), Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rural School and Community Trust, Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, United Methodist Church, General Board for Church and Society, United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries, Youth on Board – Somerville, Massachusetts.

 

You can read the letter in its entirety below:

 

May 26, 2011

 

The Honorable Chaka Fattah

2301 Rayburn House Office Building

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Dear Rep. Fattah,

 

We write to support your bill, the Student Bill of Rights Act, which re-directs our nation’s attention to the stated purpose of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education.

 

We believe Congress ought to initiate a process by which the federal government and the states collaborate to overcome large opportunity gaps. School funding systems in the majority of states remain heavily reliant on local property taxes, a taxing system that disadvantages children and schools in communities without significant local property wealth. This is an old problem, but despite 30 years of lawsuits in more than 40 states and the improved funding they have brought, inequity in funding between wealthy and poor school districts remains 3:1 in many states. No Child Left Behind imposes test based accountability—the demand for ever-growing test score outcomes—without equalizing conditions and resources. As a result federal policy has punished rather than helped our most vulnerable children.

 

Your bill equalizing Opportunity to Learn would mean that all children have access to high quality early learning programs and public schools that, at a minimum: are well-resourced and

well-staffed by fully prepared and effective professionals; provide classes of a size to ensure individualized instruction and attention to each child’s learning needs; and ensure that all children will be challenged academically. States would be held accountable for complying with court orders that address adequacy and equity of the state’s public school funding system. Further the Secretary of Education would have some concrete tools to require remediation plans and a timeline for improvement. The Student Bill of Rights Act would provide for essential collection and reporting of data about equity and set in place a process by which the federal government and states would move intentionally toward equity of school conditions.

 

In 2011, as state legislatures across the majority of states face budget crises, we see teachers being laid off, school social workers being eliminated, school librarians being laid off, school nurses sharing buildings, and students paying to participate in co-curricular activities. Deep cuts in staffing are not being experienced equally, as we know that wealthy suburbs are more able to pass local millage to protect their school funding. Once again the school districts with the lowest tax base and the highest needs are being forced to impose the deepest cuts in services for children, many of whom live in poverty.

 

We are grateful to you, Representative Fattah, for re-offering the Student Bill of Rights Act. In this year of fiscal crisis across the states, the federal government’s leadership for equity is urgently needed to make these injustices visible and to work with the states to begin to remedy what Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond has called America’s obstinate commitment to educational inequality.

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