As the 112th Congress seals its disastrous legacy this month, the once simmering discussion of a reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has evaporated in the summer heat.While it's all but certain that this session of Congress will not seriously address our nation's pressing public education concerns, the Department of Education is hard at work.Unfortunately, the plan that's taking shape in Washington appears to be based on strategy that could hurt countless Black and Latino students as the new school year gets underway.
If It Ain't Broke, Defund It
Two days ago, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) released an urgent plea, published by The Hill. Hastings' piece focused on a Dept. of Ed. plan to grant waivers to school districts that want to circumvent certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements and programs. One such requirement that districts could apply to ignore is a stipulation that they spend a small percentage of the federal funds they receive on tutoring programs for low-income students.
The program, called Supplementary Education Services (SES), serves about 650,000 mainly Black and Latino students each year by providing them with free tutoring to supplement their classroom instructions. What's worse is that the Dept. of Ed.'s own research (confirmed by studies by the right-leaning Rand Corporation) shows that free tutoring for low income students actually works! It improves their test scores, brings up their grades, and, most importantly, it gives them the extra attention that they simply can't get in overcrowded classroom.
Save This Program!
If you've already read Hastings' letter, go back and check out the comments sections. It's a sad display of deep antipathy, and indeed hatred, toward students stuck in low performing schools. While many who've been fixated with the debt ceiling issue are eager to dismiss any federal programs as "hand-outs" and cut them away with relish, again THIS PROGRAM WORKS.
It's cheap, too – only a small percentage of the federal cash distributed to low-income districts. No taxpayer will feel any financial pain if SES stays in place, but at least 650,000 students and their families will certainly feel the difference if this essential provision is waived away.