Op/Ed By Marc Morial –
New pencils, new books, an apple for the teacher, and unlimited hope for a boundless future – it’s back to school time across the country. And whether their children are boarding a school bus on a country road or a subway heading across the city, parents are united in their hopes and aspirations for their children. And the Urban League Movement shares those dreams.
A high-quality education is a civil and human right. One of the National Urban League’s empowerment goals is that every American child is prepared for college, work and life. In 2015 when ESSA was signed into law, we worked to ensure that there were strong regulations that would provide necessary safeguards for students and families. With a different administration, we have redoubled our efforts — supporting national and state advocacy, engagement and education reform actions throughout the Urban League Affiliate Movement and with other civil rights organizations.
ESSA is an opportunity for states to close opportunity and achievement gaps by increasing access to effective teachers and advanced coursework, closing funding gaps, supporting English learners and addressing students social and emotional needs.
Equitable implementation is key to ensuring the promise of ESSA for all children.
Our goal within the Urban League Movement is to advance equity in education. We make it plain: equity does not end at access to education, but rather it is evidenced by successful completion. For we know that students who receive a high-quality K-12 education are likely attend college, achieve professional success and become engaged members of their communities.
It’s no coincidence that the cornerstone of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He called education “the only valid passport from poverty” when he signed the Act in 1965, a year that also saw the creation of other Great Society initiatives like Head Start and Upward Bound.
In the 10 years after the creation of those programs, the poverty rate in America declined significantly. We know that a commitment to educational equity and excellence yields dramatic results. We won’t forget it, and we won’t let the decision-makers in Washington or state capitols or city halls forget it, either.
We are all familiar with the United Negro College Fund’s slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But it’s not only a waste for the individual whose potential is untapped, it’s a waste for the entire nation. As former Oklahoma governor Brad Henry said, “No other investment yields as great a return as the investment in education. An educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy.”