If you read the news you’ve seen the same reports that I have: dramatic learning losses that risk setting back an entire generation, abrupt school closures in many communities where kids were far behind even before the pandemic, a rising tide of violence, depression and other problems for the nation’s students. Parents’ worries about their children are well-founded. Our kids are not alright.

It would be easy to choose fear but, as a network and a nation, we should let hope guide us. Optimism is a core value for us at 50CAN, and we choose to be optimistic about the future. 

I work with incredible local advocates who I know understand the scale of the challenge our children and their families face. I believe they’re on track to fundamentally rethink and remake education in our country to meet that challenge. They are aiming not just to right the wrongs of the past two years, but the past two hundred years. 

They’re working to end educational redlining so that where you live doesn’t determine your opportunity to learn. They’re supporting the growth of new innovations in education that aren’t limited to what can happen inside a school’s walls. As a network we are all embracing a world of possibility for children that doesn’t ask them to bend to the average but helps them unlock their unique gifts and become the best version of themselves.

It won’t happen overnight, but with your help, we will take big strides forward in 2022.

This year, our network of locally-led campaigns are making five promises to America’s children. Fully realized, those promises will create an entirely new conception of education that revolutionizes learning by breaking free from the unequal and unjust trappings of the past. We’ll match American ingenuity with the goal of preparing students of all backgrounds to thrive in the complexities of our interconnected world.

Our network’s 2022 policy goals below represent both a promise of the future of American education and a roadmap for the steps we can take to make this future a reality.

The education that’s right for you, because every student learns differently.

The future of education puts the decision-making power of where, how and when students will be educated directly in the hands of parents. That means district, charter, private, microschools, learning pods, virtual education, homeschooling and more. These options must be available to all, regardless of where they live, the district boundaries or attendance zones that have been drawn or the wealth of their family.

In 2022, we’ll build toward this vision by:

  • At ConnCAN, continuing to fight for student-centered funding and diversifying the educator workforce, so that students have access to teachers who share their background.
  • At DelawareCAN, taking next steps to reform Delaware’s school funding formula from a unit-based system and outlining in law the expectations, engagements and options necessary to ensure educational equity for families, all while protecting options in the charter sector.
  • At GeorgiaCAN, improving and expanding the Statewide Scholarship Tax Credit and increasing the number of high-quality charter seats while also expanding teacher pipeline and diversity programs.
  • At HawaiiKidsCAN, updating the requirements to serve on the State Board of Education.
  • At JerseyCAN, securing more equitable school and facilities funding, including more equitable funding for charter schools and facilities funding for charter and renaissance schools, alongside effective implementation of a teacher certification pilot program.
  • At NewMexicoKidsCAN, establishing a revolving loan fund for charter school facilities and funding a quality teacher pipeline program.
  • At CarolinaCAN, enacting changes to choice programs to increase enrollment by 10,000 students, allowing high-quality charter schools to remove enrollment caps more easily and increasing the number of students eligible for the Special Needs ESA.
  • At TEN Colorado, increasing the availability of high quality seat options across the Denver Metro Area and protecting Colorado’s charter approval system.
  • At TennesseeCAN, doubling facilities funding for charter schools, enacting a student-based funding model and expanding ESA eligibility statewide.

Tutoring and care for every student in every community.

There is significant research showing the positive effects that one-on-one and small group tutoring have on remediating and accelerating learning. It’s time to make tutoring a core and permanent element of our education system. In addition, every child should also have access to a range of summer learning opportunities and camps, and the opportunity to connect regularly with a caring adult for mental health and wellness services.

In 2022, we’ll build toward this vision by:

  • At GeorgiaCAN and TEN Colorado, ensuring that tutoring programs and after-school learning programs are protected and track results.
  • At HawaiiKidsCAN, providing grant funds to families to support key educational needs.
  • At JerseyCAN, maintaining and enacting education recovery policies through parent advocacy and other partnerships and coalitions.
  • At TennesseeCAN, making tutoring and choice-based summer camps permanent.

A world of open and connected learning, so you have the tools you need to strengthen your community and succeed in life.

The future of education must move beyond the limits of the school building and tap into national and local partnerships with communities, businesses and civic institutions to deliver an interconnected and borderless education where learning happens everywhere.

In 2022, we’ll build toward this vision by:

  • At ConnCAN, modernizing the teacher workforce by creating more pathways for educators to be certified.
  • At DelawareCAN, designating broadband access as an essential utility.
  • At GeorgiaCAN, expanding learning opportunities for all children through the creation of an ESA or direct-aid program.
  • At HawaiiKidsCAN, letting students more easily earn school credit from community-based programs and organizations.
  • At TEN Colorado, providing direct aid to families to extend learning opportunities outside the classroom.
  • At TennesseeCAN, creating permanent direct payments to families for educational expenses.

A family’s right to know what’s working – it’s all about accountability.

Greater decentralization of learning must go hand-in-hand with better information for parents so they can make the right choices for their children. That means real-time updates on their children’s progress, clear measures of the quality and effectiveness of programs and dollar-by-dollar reports on the amount of money the government is spending on their child and how that money is being spent.

In 2022, we’ll build toward this vision by:

  • At ConnCAN, creating an automatic mechanism to require districts to report federal spending, while increasing community input and collaboration in school improvement efforts.
  • At DelawareCAN, codifying language that requires districts to report how they spend federal money.
  • At GeorgiaCAN, protecting Georgia’s system of high-quality assessments, accountability, evaluations and transparency.
  • At JerseyCAN, ensuring the state fulfills new budget requirements on reporting the use and impact of federal funds on student achievement.
  • At NewMexicoKidsCAN, informing the public and policymakers how federal ARP funds are being used, while also passing a constitutional amendment declaring a right to a quality education.
  • At TEN Colorado, ensuring that student progress is measured and communicated to families and community about all the ways their children are learning.
  • At TennesseeCAN, defending accountability and transparency while providing parents access to information about all the ways their children are learning.

A clear path to the career you choose. It’s about finding your fit and your pathway to a meaningful life.

The future of education will ensure that every child graduates from high school with a clear path to college or a career by partnering with the business and higher education communities to create new internships, apprenticeships and early-access college courses so that there are multiple paths to success.

In 2022, we’ll build toward this vision by:

  • At GeorgiaCAN, aligning career pathways with high-demand industries.
  • At HawaiiKidsCAN, removing barriers so more students can participate in career readiness programs, providing incentive funds to schools when students complete industry-recognized credential programs and enabling computer science courses to count toward core graduation requirements.
  • At TEN Colorado and TennesseeCAN, removing roadblocks to career pathway programs.

Derrell Bradford is the executive vice president of 50CAN and the executive director of NYCAN. He lives in the New York City metro area.

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