From the office of Congressman Chaka Fattah:
Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) the Congress’ champion for equity in education, today introduced significant legislation to close gaps in resources and opportunity between rich and poor in the nation’s public schools.
Fattah introduced the Fiscal Fairness Act and the Student Bill of Rights, both of which upgrade and close loopholes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which is up for reauthorization in the current Congress.
Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) are introducing a companion bill to the Fiscal Fairness Act in the U.S. Senate. Fattah and Bennet, the former superintendent of Denver schools, have previously partnered on other education reform measures.
“Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has declared education as the civil rights issue of our time, and I absolutely agree,” said Fattah. “To achieve our nation’s fundamental promise of equality, we must start with equal education and opportunity. These two bills are designed to reform the policies and practices that allot educational resources in an inherently unequal manner.
“Equity in education is not only a civil rights issue, it is an imperative investment for our national interest and readiness as a competitor on the world stage,” Fattah said. “To compete, innovate and excel in the world economy, we must have an educated work force – a fully educated work force.”
In addition to the two legislative initiatives, Fattah helped establish the Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, which brings together national education, civil rights and economics experts who will examine the current state of school finance equity and propose strategies for ensuring the academic excellence of all children. The Commission will be visiting local communities across the country, with its first townhall scheduled for Philadelphia in April.
“Resource inequity has been a serious obstacle to improved student achievement, and in many cases it has been a hidden obstacle because of ambiguities and loopholes in the well-intentioned ESEA,” Fattah said. “We need advocates for equitable resources to show courageous leadership and make institutional changes that give all students a fair opportunity at success. These two groundbreaking bills will give them the tools for true reform.”
Fattah’s Fiscal Fairness Act closes the loophole in the existing “comparability” provision and shores up the requirement that school districts spend state and local dollars equitably before adding federal “Title I” dollars in high-poverty schools. Similarly, the Student Bill of Rights Act directs states to define “adequate” access to critical resources and measure and report the level of resources in all school districts.
The Student Bill of Rights, which Fattah has introduced in similar form in previous Congresses, ensures students have access to the educational resources they need to be successful in school and to meet ambitious academic standards. Specifically the bill focuses on access to highly effective teachers, rigorous curricula, early childhood education and instructional materials including educational technology.
“The Fiscal Fairness Act, the Student Bill of Rights and the Equity and Excellence Commission will help fulfill the promise that we have made to our children that anything is possible, especially when we provide them the educational tools essential for their success,” Fattah said.