Today, the federal Equity and Excellence Commission issued its report, “For Each and Every Child,” calling for “bold action by the states, and the federal government, to redesign the funding of our nation’s public schools…with sufficient resources that are distributed based on student need,” and urging “the highest national priority” for broad access to high quality preschool.
In 2010, at the behest of Congressmen Mike Honda of California and Chaka Fattah of Philadelphia, Congress established the Equity Commission within the U.S. Education Department.
After two years of deliberations, the Commission’s 27 members agreed to focus their report on America’s need for better school funding, high quality early childhood education, the necessary supports for teachers and school leaders, and mitigating poverty’s adverse effects on learning.
“We are at a formative moment in American education,” Congressman Honda wrote in a foreword to the “Each Child” report. “We must all work together to make public education thrive in every community.”
Congressman Fattah added that he wants to work with “policymakers around the country, to make equity and excellence a reality for every American child and to strengthen America’s future.”
“Each and Every Child” recommends that states: (1) identify the programs and services needed for educational opportunity and determine the actual costs of the resources needed; (2) adopt and implement school finance systems that provide fair and sufficient funding for all students to reach state content standards, and support those systems with stable and predictable revenues; and (3) develop systems to ensure districts effectively use all education funding.
Commissioner David Sciarra highlighted the Equity Commission’s concern that too often “students, families and communities are burdened by broken systems of education funding” in their states.
“We simply can’t deliver high quality public education to all children without adequate and equitable school funding,” said Mr. Sciarra, who leads the Education Law Center, which has led the effort to transform New Jersey’s school funding system into a beacon of equity for the nation.
Commissioner Jim Ryan, professor of law at the University of Virginia said, “I am heartened by the consensus on the commission that our school finance systems should be more equitable, and I am delighted by the support for increasing access to high quality preschool. The evidence is overwhelming regarding the benefits of preschool. It’s simply a very, very smart investment, as President Obama recently explained when announcing his support for universal preschool.”
“High quality early learning programs must be a matter of the highest national priority,” the report proclaims, because “it is the years from birth to age 5 that are crucial” in the learning life of every child. High quality prekindergarten makes a tremendous difference in preparing children for success in school and in life, and “every dollar invested…produces a 7 to 10 percent per annum return.”
Equity and Excellent Commission members were announced in February 2011, and began deliberations immediately. The Equity Commission was charged with:
- collecting data, analyzing issues and obtaining broad public input on strategies to increase educational opportunity by improving school funding equity; and
- making recommendations for restructuring school finance systems to achieve equity in resources and further student performance, especially for students at the lower end of the achievement gap.
Optimism is growing that Commission recommendations to expand access to high quality preschool will come to fruition on the heels of President Obama’s announcement of a ground-breaking federal initiative to expand early education for four-year-olds. In addition, over the last year the demand to overhaul state school finance systems has taken center stage in a growing number of states, including Texas, Colorado, Kansas, California and Washington, driven by the recognition that school funding must be tied to the actual cost of delivering rigorous academic standards to all children.
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