Today, I was fortunate to attend the President’s bill signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the long-overdue rewrite of the primary federal education law.
Sitting in the audience with other national education policy leaders watching the President surrounded by Members of Congress, I was struck by the fact that what this is really about is community-level leadership and change. Education only works when the local community is fully engaged.
Still, this new law is a big deal.
After eight years of congressional debate on fixing No Child Left Behind, consensus was finally reached to ensure all students have access to a quality education. From our perspective, the new law hits all the right marks.
What local United Ways and their communities told us was that effective education reform must include ensuring access to quality education for low-income and marginalized students, using schools to provide supports for students beyond the classroom, and tools to engage parents in education of their children.
What’s next? The federal government did its part. Now, local communities need to do theirs.
We don’t want to put children in certain communities at risk because of ineffective implementation. Parents, local community leaders (including United Ways), local lawmakers, and everyone who cares about the state of education and the future of our kids need to actively engage in execution of this new law.
There’s great potential here, but only if we continue to move it forward together.