Three current recommendations would ‘exacerbate inequities in ed opportunity’
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 15, 2020) – Democrats for Education Reform National President Shavar Jeffries released the below statement following today’s Democratic National Committee (DNC) Platform Drafting Committee vote to advance the recommendations of the Biden-Sanders Task Force:
“We agree with many of the policy recommendations proposed by the Biden-Sanders Task Force for the Democratic Platform—specifically the recommendations to triple Title I funding for schools serving low-income students; to fully fund services for students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA); and to invest heavily to make college affordable for America’s working families. However, there are several recommendations that would exacerbate inequities in educational opportunities, both for low-income students generally, and low-income students of color, in particular. We urge the Task Force to embrace President Obama’s legacy and keep alive his commitment to equity in the Democratic platform—particularly in three key areas: preserving assessments and accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act; funding high quality public charter schools as an option for families; and committing to diversity in higher education.
DFER, along with civil rights leaders across the country, have long supported annual, statewide assessments as a crucial indicator of where schools are falling short in serving students. We agree that assessments should not be ‘high-stakes’ for students and that assessments alone cannot improve student outcomes, and we also agree that states should use multiple measures of student success and not rely on one test score. But ensuring that assessment data is uniform and comparable across districts, as well as counting every student, are essential for accurately identifying opportunity gaps with regard to access to quality instruction, and for holding districts accountable to ensure that all children are progressing academically.
We were also disappointed with the attempt to gut federal funding for public charter schools. Requiring districts to pre-approve public charter schools’ application for federal funding would essentially limit public school options available for low-income families—and specifically, largely Black and Latino—whose very demand for high quality public school options is why public charters exist in the first place. To be clear, we strongly believe that no federal funding should support for-profit charter schools, and we likewise believe all public schools, including public charters, should be held responsible to the same accountability and transparency standards.
Polling shows public charter schools are very popular with the very same Black and Brown families that delivered the nomination to Vice President Biden. At a time when low-income families, and especially low-income families of color, are demanding more agency and empowerment to decide core decisions affecting their lives, the platform sends exactly the wrong signal to those families.
Lastly, the Task Force missed a golden opportunity to lead on ensuring a meaningful commitment to diversity by higher education leaders in excluding any accountability requirements for universities to admit and graduate their fair share of historically underrepresented and low-income students. Colleges and universities receiving federal funding should be required to end practices that undermine diversity and socioeconomic mobility at their institutions, and we would like to see the Task Force call for incentives to be attached to disaggregated success rates of postsecondary education students to ensure that they are not only getting to, but through, higher education.
We emphasize that the values we express here are embraced broadly by civil rights and progressive education advocates, as reflected in a Policy Agenda released yesterday by our affiliate organization Education Reform Now, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Center for American Progress, the Center for Black Educator Development, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Action Network, the National Urban League, UnidosUS, and others.
We look forward to a continued conversation with the Biden-Sanders Education Unity Task Force on how the next Administration can better serve historically underserved students and ensure a more just future for our nation.”