Seeking to move concepts of comprehensive services for low-income students from the realm of policy to the realm of practice, on October 11, 2011, the Campaign for Educational Equity, based at Teachers College, Columbia University, issued five new white papers and hosted an important forum entitled “Achievable and Affordable: Providing Comprehensive Educational Opportunity to Low-Income Students.”
These five academic papers make the case that for low-income students to succeed in school, in addition to effective teachers, contemporary curricula, and quality facilities and materials and other essential schooling resources, these students also need access to a “comprehensive educational opportunity” that includes access to preschool, after-school and summer programming, health care, and family support services.
For the past two years, the Campaign has been working with a task force of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to address the notion that closing the achievement gap requires a concept of equity in education that focuses both on the opportunities provided in formal school settings and on providing full range of educationally relevant “out of school” services that students need to overcome the impediments to learning that poverty imposes.
Panelists included Michael A. Rebell, executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity; John B. King Jr., New York State Commissioner of Education; Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, president of Say Yes to Education; David Wakelyn, Deputy Secretary for Education to N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo; and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. Susan H. Fuhrman, president of Teachers College, moderated the panel discussion.
During the panel, Ms. Weingarten exclaimed in response to Professor Rebell’s proposals: “it is shocking to me, just shocking, that we have not done more around the country of what Michael is proposing.” She also argued that in places like New York with mayoral control, “there’s no reason why the mayor cannot manage the services that are directly under the mayor’s control.”
Starting with prenatal care for mothers, the Campaign for Educational Equity’s papers count on coordinated and sustainable services and supports for students for all 18 years of their developmental cycle until high school graduation. On average, the per capita costs of providing all of these services to all students eligible for free and reduced price lunches would be approximately $4250 on a national basis, according to the economic analysis issued by the Campaign. Other papers argue that the opportunity for a sound basic education should be considered a legal right; that investment in these services will yield calculable economic and social benefits to society; and that states should adopt standards for program quality, accountability and essential resources in each of the major areas of service needs.
The five papers that were issued are the culmination of the first phase of the task force’s work. The next phase of the task force will focus on implementation issues and model legislation.