Op-Ed: The Student Success Act Will Seriously Hurt Low-Income Kids

Takepart.com

We’ve made significant gains for students over the past 40 years, but the educational inequities that persist today cannot be ignored.

Several generations after Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our students’ chances of receiving a quality education still depend largely on their zip code, race or national original, or whether they have a disability.

Federal law cannot ignore that education inequities still exist. And, it cannot roll back what progress we have made. Instead, it must build on the lessons we have learned from those schools, districts, and states that are closing gaps for students of color, low-income children, English language learners, and kids with disabilities. A new federal law must be an improvement over past iterations and must give all students a fair shot.

Unfortunately, the ESEA reauthorization proposal put forward by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), The Student Success Act (H.R. 5), walks away from low-income students and students of color. The shortcomings of Representative Kline’s bill are many.

Title I funds must enhance, not simply replace, state and local resources. The Student Success Act does not even attempt to achieve this goal.

The bill makes sequester the law of the land for education, cutting federal funding to unsustainably low levels. It also fails to remedy a loophole in the law that results in low-income schools continuing to receive less funding than higher income schools in the same district.

For students to succeed, schools serving high populations of low-income students must receive equal state and local funding as higher income schools. To accomplish this goal, Title I funds must enhance, not simply replace, state and local resources. The Student Success Act does not even attempt to achieve this goal.

Districts also need college- and career-ready standards that are linked to clear, ambitious but achievable goals and performance targets for all students. Unfortunately, these essential goals are noticeably missing from the Kline legislation.

Without these, we cannot ensure the progress of students and schools, or safeguard taxpayers’ substantial investment. History and experience show that, when given full discretion, states have taken a pass on setting such goals, making them a vital part of any reauthorized ESEA legislation.

For the sake of our students, we encourage lawmakers to find another path forward instead of The Student Success Act. Our nation’s low-income students and students of color can’t afford to lose any ground.

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