As a citizen of Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, I am proud to congratulate and thank our Senator Sherrod Brown and my Congressional Representative Marcia Fudge for stepping out to provide leadership in the struggle to equalize educational opportunity. For too long Congress has gone along with the conventional wisdom that has demanded accountability for educational outcomes—higher test scores—without demanding that states equalize provision of the resources necessary to support students and teachers in school districts where poverty is concentrated and schools lack adequate programs and support for children.
For too long it has merely been accepted that the public schools in the poorest neighborhoods of our big cities where poverty is highly concentrated must be shaped up not through the kind of investment the rest of us take for granted, but instead by punishing them and their teachers for failure. The editorial board of the Rethinking Schools magazine has decried this sort of thinking by declaring that school “reform”based on ranking schools by high stakes tests disguises class and race-based privilege as merit. Wealthy and homogeneous suburban school districts—able to fund themselves by taxing their own property wealth—thrive, while schools in big cities are closed and privatized at the same time they are being starved of funds by their state legislatures.
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has joined Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed to co-sponsor the Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence (CORE) Act in the Senate. Ohio Representative Marcia Fudge has introduced companion legislation in the House. Introduction of the CORE Act will require Congress to discuss and consider the necessity of closing opportunity gaps as a first step to closing test-score achievement gaps. According to the press release describing the bill: “The bill aims to tackle existing disparities in public education by establishing accountability requirements that compel states and school districts to give all students equitable access to the resources necessary to achieve college and career readiness by high school graduation.” The law would amend Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965.
The CORE Act would disqualify any state from applying for federal competitive grant programs operated by the U.S. Department of Education under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act if the state’s accountability system does not require and measure fair and equitable access to core resources for learning and provide a plan to identify and address inequities. The state must also demonstrate that it is making annual progress in eliminating disparities; if it fails to make progress for two or more consecutive years, the state would be barred from applying for federal competitive funds. The CORE Act would also require states to comply “with any final Federal or State court order in any matter concerning the adequacy or equitableness of the state’s public school system.”
The CORE Act enumerates resources states would be required to provide for all public school students and requires that states report annually to the U.S. Department of Education to identify school districts and schools where inequities remain and the measures that would be taken to address them. Resources states would need to provide for all students include:
- High quality instructional teams including licensed teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors;
- Rigorous academic standards and curricula accessible to all students including those learning English or who have disabilities;
- Instructionaly appropriate class size, equitably provided;
- Up-to-date instruction including technology;
- Effective school libraries;
- Environmentally sound facilities and well-equipped learning settings that include technology;
- Teams of support staff that include counselors, social workers, nurses, and other necessary, well-qualified professionals; and
- Effective programs for family and community engagement.
Stanford University professor Linda Darling-Hammond commented on the importance of this bill: “The CORE Act is an important advance…. We cannot expect students to meet common high standards if they do not have in common excellent teaching, equitable curricula, and adequate support. This bill begins to close the opportunity gap that creates the achievement gap.”