Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA-02), the leading Congressional advocate for school funding equity, today told the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of the nation's largest urban systems, that the key to America's future in the global marketplace can be found in their classrooms.
Fattah is co-author of legislation that created the U.S. Equity and Excellence Commission. The Commission, which found its genesis in a conversation Fattah had with President Obama in early 2009, just completed a major report on equity of school resources for the U.S. Department of Education.
In his remarks to 200 superintendents, school board members, and school administrators, the Philadelphia Congressman connected the critical work of educating children in urban school districts with the economic health of the country as a whole. As he said in his forward in the Commission report: "American global competitiveness demands the full, active participation of every young person and his or her talents, regardless of location or circumstance of birth."
Fattah today was addressing the Great City Schools' Annual Legislative and Policy Conference at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. The Council's members are the leaders of school systems with combined enrollment of 6.9 million students in cities over a quarter-million population.
"As a nation, if we're going to compete with billion plus populated countries, we're going to have to compete with an educated workforce," Fattah told the educators. "We've been shadowboxing for too long and we're going to need to get serious about competing. . . We can no longer afford to have a third of American children living in the shadow of opportunity."
Fattah was introduced by Philadelphia Superintendent of Schools Dr. William R. Hite Jr.
The Equity Commission report, For Each and Every Child, calls for federal leadership to address funding inequities between schools and districts, a long-term legislative priority of the Congressman. The report also recommends an aggressive new effort to ensure access to high-quality early childhood education for children in low-income communities.
The early-childhood recommendation was reflected in the President's State of the Union address and draws from another Fattah priority -- neuroscience research, including support for research on how children learn and how the brains of the very young develop.
Fattah is the long-time champion for both education and urban youth who has spoken out forcefully on the challenges and triumphs taking place in the nation's largest school districts. He has led efforts to reverse inequitable school financing systems between rich and poor districts and within districts.
"Some people say that delivering quality education isn't a matter of money," he said. "Fine, if the money doesn't matter, let's just equalize the money provided to every school and school district, and see what happens.If the money does matter, then we should equalize it as well."
Fattah is Ranking Member (senior Democrat) on the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce Justice Science and related agencies.