Monday, April 24, 2006

Daniel Losen

Having worked for The Civil Rights Project on education issues for the last seven years after teaching in public schools for about 10, I offer a few ideas based on my experience. Unfortunately I can’t attend the conference, but I’m eager for the opportunity to work with many of you in the future.

I hope the discussion at the conference and beyond will cover how to frame the issue in a way that maximizes the contributions of each one of us, rather than delineating differences among the broad participants, who do have the will and are paving the way. Specifically:

* I think we need to discuss any right to an education as an expansive K-16 concept.

* We need to leverage more meaningful change from whatever battles we can win. To this end lawyers, educators, policy makers and researchers should have more extensive discussions about the intersection of the legal or legislative strategy with the range of remedies that can be sought, and plan on working together far far beyond the day the decision is handed down or the legislation signed.

* As we develop a better sense of how fighting for a fundamental right to education will fit into a broader strategy of achieving tangible equitable opportunities and outcomes, I propose coupling this long term aspirational goal with a select set of realistic short and intermediate term objectives to be pursued simultaneously -- a cohesive strategywith greater communication among the participants. For one example, a short term goal of federal and state legislation requiring more transparent disaggregated data on many facets of education (k-16) on the school, district and state levels would provide the information we need to make more effective legal, policy, and economic arguments for a range of reforms in the midterm. These data are also essential to making the case for the long term goal.

I too see that most Americans believe we all have a right to an education, think most kids get a good education now, or don’t fully understand the benefits they’ll accrue by having a better educated citizenry. I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job combining the human face of neglected youth and denied opportunity with the very negative impacts to all of having a large, poorly educated under class, including the costs of the underinsured and over-incarcerated. We also must keep race and ethnicity squarely on the table along with other subgroups and do a better job of illustrating the connections so that advocates from one group see themselves in the other groups, and as a result, collaborate more frequently and effectively.


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