Last week the Equity and Excellence Commission released its report, which calls for education changes to meet the needs “For Each and Every Child.” Back in 2008 when I first legislated to create this commission, I did it not only so that some of our children could be successful, but also so each and every child could have a chance to succeed.
Then as an appropriator when I secured funding to form this historic commission, I was humbled and honored to work with the nation’s foremost educational leaders and researchers. This group represented various philosophies, backgrounds and perspectives, but each shared a common passion and vision to guarantee an equitable education for every child. After 30 years as an educator and witnessing disparities in the system, I’m gratified to see this process to address the needs of all of America’s children under way.
This group was charged with examining the educational inequalities present, and recommending changes that would ensure each and every child has the opportunity to achieve. Having attended and participated in all the meetings and even holding a town hall in my district, I have seen members of this commission, including me, learn from one another. Out of these numerous voices we have a report that contains one singular, common vision to ensure each and every child has the opportunity to achieve.
To do this, the commission has recommended numerous items. Of those recommendations, I have been most passionate about the following:
This is the first time that the federal government has called for providing access to high-quality early childhood education for each and every child. We need to ensure that we get everyone to the same starting line and close gaps before they get too big. We cannot afford to play catch-up later. I applaud President Barack Obama for calling for the same policy in his State of the Union. I look forward to working with the administration to actualize this.
We need to overhaul how we finance schools; the federal government should provide states with incentives to acknowledge the needs of each and every child when deciding on how to fund their schools.
We need to ensure that our children have access to high-quality and effective teachers. We need to recruit, rigorously train and retain the best and the brightest and make sure all our schools are staffed by these teachers.
This report may seem like the culminating work of the commission, but it is only the beginning. A lot of serious work remains to address the inequities in opportunities for our students in public schools. There is still much to do to ensure each and every child has a fair shot at the American dream.
It is my hope that this common vision presented in the report will keep us focused on the needs of each and every child.
I look forward to pushing the recommendations presented in this report through Congress, working with my friend and fellow member of Congress, Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa. We are both passionate and committed to providing a quality education for all children.
To begin this next chapter of ensuring educational equity, I will be hosting a roll-out event in my district in the coming month. We will bring out the commissioners to engage the schools and community in a discussion of the report’s recommendations.
We will examine not only the disparities, but how schools are working to provide a high-quality education that affords each child an opportunity to succeed. I look forward to continuing this dialogue in my district. It is only when our nation begins to address the needs of each and every child that we can ensure that America will continue to remain a global leader and innovator. This is not a minority issue, this is not a poverty issue, this is an American issue. To ensure our future economic and social prosperity it is imperative we work together to address these issues.
I look forward to continuing the work with these commissioners, this administration, Congressman Fattah and with the American people to ensure equity and excellence for each and every child in the American public school system and thereby guaranteeing America’s prosperity.
Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., is a former educator and author of the legislation that created the Equity and Excellence Commission. He represents Silicon Valley and serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.