It is week 162 of our new reality, and we are thinking about who is stepping forward to lead us into the educational future our kids need and deserve.
“The shortcomings of the U.S. education system are clear in terms of the inequity you end up with: the kind of jobs, salaries, mobility you’d like to see in society. Education is the great enabler of mobility, and we’re falling short on that,” Bill Gates shares in a new interview with The 74 Million. “The U.S. economy has done relatively well because there are so many factors that enter into it, including the ability of the U.S. to draw very talented people from the entire world. But I think the predictions that this is going to hurt us in the long run are true.”
You will search in vain for a similarly clear-eyed assessment from many of our current leaders including, unfortunately, the White House. Instead, what we have gotten so far from the Biden Administration is simply a more expensive status quo. Bill Gates doesn’t see that changing.
“I’d say that, both under Bush and Obama, there was a real effort at the federal level to drive change in education,” Gates asserts in the interview. “For better or for worse, the amount of experimentation and top-down system reform that’s going to come from the federal government after the Obama period will be very modest … The action has moved, you could say, to the state, district or classroom level.”
By necessity, a 50-state movement grounded in bottom-up innovations and local advocacy is the future of education reform in America. And fortunately for the nation’s students that future is bright.
Last time, we explored the challenges of expanding school choice in a world of financial constraints and checked in on the legislative session in Tennessee. This week we put the spotlight on a big new tutoring initiative in Louisiana and the push for a universal ESA in the Tar Heel state.
FROM THE FIELD
Parents in Denver, Colorado, many of them grassroots advocates supported by TEN, rallied outside a Board of Education meeting demanding the resignation of the school board for failing to keep schools safe. “The board is making decisions without us,” parent advocate Claudia Carillo told Boardhawk. “It’s like they’re setting us up to fail.”
Meanwhile, GeorgiaCAN’s parent advocates were also hard at work in Columbus, Georgia, where they protested a change in school start times that would reduce instructional time. The Muscogee County School District postponed the vote until mid-May as a result of parent testimonials, promising to consider the feedback.
ConnCAN is tracking the progress of several priority bills as their legislative session continues. HB5003, their student-centered funding bill, passed unanimously out of the education committee last month and received a $150 million line-item in the budget. The team continues to push for more education funding, including at a press conference alongside the Connecticut Council for Municipalities that was held last week and a rally this Thursday. Additionally, SB1199, a bill that aims to increase educator diversity through a $12 million investment in an educator diversity scholarship program, passed out of appropriations with a bipartisan vote. That bill now moves to a vote in the House, along with the English Language Learners Bill of Rights legislation the team has championed throughout the session.
Following passage and signing of their science of reading bill earlier this year, NewMexicoKidsCAN launched the Literacy Action Center as a resource tool for parents to inform them about the scale of the literacy crisis and to provide solutions and a way to make their voices heard.
And finally, we’ve got two new pieces from 50CAN out this week. Derrell Bradford authored a column for the Tennessean alongside yes. every kid’s Craig Hulse calling out redlining and discriminatory zoning established by a 1957 law. Meanwhile, FutureEd and 50CAN released the latest AdvocacyLabs report on electoral advocacy, a write-up of which was featured in Education Post.
Moment of Resilience
Last week, DelawareCAN Executive Director Britney Mumford returned to the statehouse in Dover for a Senate Education Committee meeting on her first day back from maternity leave. All of us at 50CAN send congratulations for the birth of her son, Roman, and the Mumfords’ growing family. “The work feels even more important and urgent now,” Britney told us. “We have to deliver for Roman and every other child in this nation.”