Photo of Lyndon B. Johnson at the 1965 ESEA signing ceremony, with his childhood schoolteacher Ms. Kate Deadrich Loney by Frank Wolfe
The reauthorization of a landmark education law will spell disaster for our children.
The original law was passed in 1965 as one of the pillars of the War on Poverty and was a major victory. It acknowledged the inequitable funding of our public schools and attempted to equalize school funding across the country.
But this new bill is different. In fact, if the versions that have been passed in the House and Senate are reconciled, open season will be declared on public education in places like my home state of Wisconsin.
Let me explain.
For the last some years, Wisconsin Republicans have waged an assault on public schools, public school teachers and public school children through massive budget cuts, the punishment of kids and teachers who don’t get good test scores with even more cuts, and dubious privatization schemes that replace publicly accountable schools with private charter schools and cash vouchers that send public funds to private schools.
The state’s ability to do this has it roots in a simple yet pernicious system: labeling some schools as “failing” if their students get low test scores. That means less resources and the threat of shutdown for — guess who? — schools that serve low-income kids.
While shifting power to the states means kids get a break from federally mandated testing, when so many states view public schools with such antagonism, we can’t view the new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as progress.
A system of test and punish for our schools — whether federal or state-based — rejects our collective responsibility for all children to have a chance to experience a meaningful education. A bill perpetuating more of that doesn’t deserve to be passed.
Copyright Tim Slekar