A recent report (PDF) commissioned by Congress found that states don't fund education fairly across jurisdictions, need to do a better job intervening in struggling school districts and encouraging better-qualified teachers to enter the profession — and stay.
“In far too many communities, in far too many cities, in far too many states, there are inequities,” said U.S. Education Secretary Duncan, speaking with reporters Tuesday (February 19) about the report, which is intended to provide guidance for the department he oversees. “This report doesn't just compel us to think and talk, but to act.”
The report, overseen by a broad commission that includes academics, education advocates, state and federal officials and labor leaders, targets five major areas for improvement: school funding, teacher quality, preschool, resources in high-poverty communities and school governance and accountability.
It calls for tying federal aid to requirements that states adopt more equitable funding formulas, promote greater diversity within all schools, train and retain better teachers and provide quality preschooling to all students.
While it's unclear how soon most of the report's recommendations are likely to spur legislation, the commission's call for universal pre-school was mirrored in President Obama's State of the Union address February 12, with the president also recommending a federal-state partnership to provide universal pre-school education. Administration officials said they won't release an estimate on the cost of such a program until the president unveils his budget sometime next month.
The commission's findings were released in the wake of two recent court decisions finding state funding for education inadequate and inequitable in Texas and Kansas. Those rulings are being appealed, but they are among 10 challenges currently under way in the states. U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, speaking on the call to reporters, said that the report shows the challenges aren't unique to these states.
“That court ruling (in Texas) could have happened in almost any state in the country,” the Democratic Congressman said. “There's so much more that we have to do as a country.”