July 2, 2014
It has been more than 17 years since the Ohio Supreme Court found Ohio’s system of funding schools unconstitutional. Families in Ohio and in many other states have waited long enough for meaningful action from our state leaders to deliver on America’s promise of fair and equal opportunity for all students.
That is why I introduced legislation last week to ensure all students in every school district receive core resources to enable them to succeed. A Democratic Senator from Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed, introduced identical legislation in that chamber. This measure, called the Core Opportunity Resources for Equity and Excellence (CORE) Act addresses persistent achievement gaps between disadvantaged, low income and minority students and non-disadvantaged students. It requires states and local school districts to provide core resources equitably.
A report published by a federal advisory commission to the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 illustrated the magnitude of resource gaps, including: • Black, Latino, American Indian, native Alaskan students and English language learners attend schools with higher concentrations of inexperienced teachers; • One in five high schools nationwide lack a school counselor; and • Between 10 and 25 percent of high schools across the nation do not offer more than one of the core courses in the typical sequence for high school math and science, such as Algebra I and II, geometry, biology and chemistry. The CORE Act identifies resources for learning such as effective school library programs; up-to-date instructional materials, technology and supplies; equitable and appropriate class sizes; and high quality instructional staff, including licensed and profession-ready teachers.
In addition to identifying resources, the CORE Act also requires states to create resource plans so that they then can be held accountable if the schools in their state do not have said resources. States that fail to make progress in eliminating inequities for two or more consecutive years would not be eligible to participate in competitive grant programs authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Equal opportunity is at the center of America’s promise and potential. We cannot maintain a competitive edge in the world when we forsake this principle in our public education system. All of our nation’s students must be assured fair and equitable access to quality resources for core learning, yet the evidence is clear — we have failed millions of students. Senator Reed and I agree the CORE Act is one step forward in righting that wrong. Also in the past week, I cosponsored the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 because it is a bi-partisan effort to restore the safeguards of the Voting Rights Act consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling. I urge House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to immediately take up this critical legislation. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. However, the Shelby County v. Holder decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for states and localities to weaken this right. As we know, advocates in Ohio recently battled the Republican controlled state legislature (and won) to restore early voting on the weekend before Election Day. However, other discriminatory directives and laws that limit Ohioans access to the polls are still in place. We must remove barriers that interfere with any eligible citizen’s right to vote and participate in our democracy. We must pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act. It won’t happen before our nation celebrates its 238th birthday on the Fourth of July but I will do all in my power to work for its passage by the time the next Independence Day occurs. America is at its best when liberty and justice reach all people and we can truly say our democracy works for everyone. I hope you have a great week and a safe and Happy Independence Day.