RELEASE: CAP Releases First 100 Days Agenda for K-12 Education

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a first 100-days agenda for the next presidential administration to provide a quality K-12 education for every child in the country—particularly those who have historically been denied that opportunity.

This issue brief underscores the need to prioritize and take immediate action to dismantle long-standing structural inequity in the K-12 education system and provide schools much-needed relief in the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. At the same time, the brief highlights that despite most K-12 education funding coming from state and local governments, and while local school districts have control over critical decisions, the problems that schools face today are simply too vast to be solved without federal involvement.

CAP’s first 100 days agenda focuses on five critical areas, as follows:

  1. Applying an explicit racial equity lens to policy development, using a community-informed process: From the start, the next administration should make a clear commitment to a community-informed approach to policymaking across the U.S. Department of Education and the Domestic Policy Council (DPC). CAP also recommends that the Education Department and DPC rejuvenate, establish, and learn from structures that make clear their leadership role in ensuring equitable access to quality education for every child in American schools. This includes reestablishing, fully funding, and making a clear link between DPC and the five White House initiatives on education, as well as reestablishing guidance supporting protection of student’s civil rights.
  2. Preparing all students for college and the future workforce: The K-12 experience needs to be reimagined, and federal leadership in this reimagining is desperately needed, with actions such as establishing a federal interagency commission focused on aligning K-12 education, higher education, and workforce funding and policies. The proposal also calls on the next administration to increase funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants program as part of the president’s first budget request, as well as provide guidance to states and school districts on how to use these funds to better prepare students for the future of work, improve access to counseling, and provide equitable access to advanced coursework.
  3. Modernizing and elevating the teaching profession: While it remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect the profession, evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that a racially diverse, well-compensated, and well-trained teacher workforce that has the support and resources to succeed is one of the best ways to ensure an excellent education for students. Announcing a priority to modernize and elevate the teaching profession in the 2021 joint address to Congress and proposing significant investments in increasing teacher pay, improving working conditions, and increasing the racial diversity of the teacher workforce are powerful ways for the next administration to demonstrate a commitment to this effort within the first 100 days.
  4. Dramatically increasing investments in public schools and improving the equity of existing investments: The nation’s schools are chronically underfunded, and the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could widen this funding gap. What’s more, these impacts are disproportionately felt by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students as well as students from families with low incomes. The next presidential administration should propose a bold new program to increase funding and make it more equitable at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as highlight the need to invest in recovering from the effects of the pandemic for both current K-12 students and young adults just entering the workforce.
  5. Bringing a balanced approach to charter school policy: Charter schools now enroll more than 3 million students—about 6 percent of the total public school population—and represent significant shares of enrollment in many communities. The next administration should look to bring a balanced approach to charter school policy that encourages smart growth, helps existing charter schools to improve, and confronts challenges in the charter sector. For example, the next administration should propose dedicating a higher proportion of federal Charter Schools Program funding to helping existing charter schools to improve and investing in community-driven strategies.

“From day one, the next administration has the unique opportunity to set education as a priority, taking concrete actions toward creating real change,” says Scott Sargrad, vice president of K-12 Education Policy at CAP and co-author of the brief. “This comprehensive proposal focuses on the critical issues needed to show that providing quality education for every student in this country is the main goal for the next four years and beyond.”

“The next administration will face unprecedented challenges with an ongoing health pandemic, economic crisis, and intensified racial unrest. K-12 education must be front and center in their policy agenda when responding to those challenges,” says Khalilah M. Harris, managing director for K-12 Education Policy at CAP and co-author of the brief. “The approach the next administration takes toward K-12 education can be the difference between improving opportunity and generating real change or maintaining a system that falls short of meeting students’, educators’, and communities’ needs.”

Read the issue brief: “A First 100 Days Agenda for K-12 Education” by Scott Sargrad, Khalilah M. Harris, Lisette Partelow, Neil Campbell, and Laura Jimenez

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