In a press conference Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he was launching, without the approval of the U.S. Congress, the Excellent Educators for All Initiative, an endeavor that purports to assist states and school districts with support to hire “great educators for the students who need them most.”
Calling attention to the social justice agenda that underlies the Education Department’s initiatives, which include the Race to the Top grants for support of the Common Core standards and universal pre-school, Duncan said he “just cannot continue to wait” for Congress to respond to the needs of children.
Duncan once again injected the federal government into education, an area that conservative critics say belongs to the states and local governments according to the U.S. Constitution.
All children are entitled to a high-quality education regardless of their race, zip code or family income. It is critically important that we provide teachers and principals the support they need to help students reach their full potential.
Despite the excellent work and deep commitment of our nation’s teachers and principals, systemic inequities exist that shortchange students in high-poverty, high-minority schools across our country. We have to do better. Local leaders and educators will develop their own innovative solutions, but we must work together to enhance and invigorate our focus on how to better recruit, support and retain effective teachers and principals for all students, especially the kids who need them most.
According to a press release on the U.S. Department of Education’s (USED) website, Duncan’s announcement “is another important step forward in improving access to quality education, a component of President Obama’s year of action.”
“Absent Congressional action, the President is moving forward on behalf of vulnerable children and families,” USED continues.
The Excellent Educators for All Initiative includes three parts:
Comprehensive Educator Equity Plans, in which the federal government will require “states to analyze their data and consult with teachers, principals, districts, parents and community organizations to create new, comprehensive educator equity plans that put in place locally-developed solutions to ensure every student has effective educators.”
Chief State School Officers, or the state departments of education and chairs of state boards of education, will receive a letter that indicates the plans are to be submitted to the federal government in April of 2015.
According to the letter, “in accordance with the requirements of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA),” each state educational agency must “describe the steps it will take to ensure that ‘poor and minority children are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers.'”
An Educator Equity Support Network, in which the federal government will spend $4.2 million of taxpayer funds “to launch a new technical assistance network to support states and districts in developing and implementing their plans to ensure all students have access to great educators.”
Educator Equity Profiles, in which the federal government will publish profiles of the states to “identify gaps in access to quality teaching for low-income and minority students…”
In addition to the profiles, USED says states will receive their “complete data file from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC),” so they can design strategies for improving their inequities.
USED states the new initiative is based on “research” that “indicates that students’ race and family income often predict their access to excellent educators.”
“Low-income students and high-need schools tend to have teachers who have less experience, credentials and a track record of success,” USED states in the press release.
USED pointed to the states of Louisiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina as examples of states in which the percentage of teachers rated highly effective is higher in low-poverty, low-minority schools than in high-poverty, high-minority schools.
According to the press statement, USED’s “commitment to equity in education underlies all of its activities,” including My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, ESEA flexibility, School Improvement Grants, and Race to the Top grants.
Duncan’s announcement Monday comes as the U.S. border is being flooded with thousands of illegal immigrant children who will likely be placed in U.S. public schools.
In May, Attorney General Eric Holder joined Duncan in reminding public schools that they are required to provide all children with equal access to education at both the elementary and secondary levels regardless of their parents’ or guardians’ citizenship or immigration status.
“We want to be sure every school leader understands the legal requirements under the Constitution and federal laws, and it is our hope that this update will address some of the misperceptions out there,” Duncan said in May, according to CBS News. “The message is clear: let all children who live in your district enroll in your public schools.”
Holder pledged to “vigilantly enforce the law to ensure the schoolhouse door remains open to all.”