Nationwide actions to reaffirm LBJ’s ‘fierce commitment to the ideal of education for everyone’
WASHINGTON– Families, students, educators, and communities across the nation will spring into an April Wave of Action to inject their voices into the reauthorization process of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now more commonly known as No Child Left Behind, with a series of public events, teach-ins, rallies and digital engagements. This campaign coincides with Congress’ Easter recess. Leading the Wave of Action is a new six-figure television and digital ad buy that will run in select media markets home to 13 U.S. senators who will play a key role in deciding the future of the law. A cable ad buy also will air in the Washington, D.C. media market starting the week of April 13, which coincides with the Senate education committee’s expected mark up of their version of ESEA.
“Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the most sweeping education legislation of its time, the future of public education stands at a critical crossroads,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Today, more than 50 percent of the nation’s public school students now qualify to receive free and reduced-priced meals. Fifteen million children in the United States — 20 percent of all children — live with families whose incomes are below the federal poverty level.”
On April 11, 1965, President Johnson cemented ESEA as a critical cornerstone of his War on Poverty programs, establishing the federal footprint in K-12 public education, and putting in place programs to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students: children living in poverty, students with disabilities and English-language learners.
“Under No Child Left Behind, the focus has shifted away from helping those most in need and moved towards testing, labeling and punishing schools, with no significant closure of achievement or opportunity gaps. Today, we call on all Americans to join us and take action, to speak up, to raise their hands, to reaffirm President Johnson’s ‘fierce commitment to the ideal of education for everyone,’” said Eskelsen García.
The 50th anniversary of ESEA comes as Congress is in earnest considering ways to rewrite the law. In fact, the U.S. Senate education committee is scheduled to begin marking up its version of ESEA on April 14, just a few days after the law’s anniversary. Educators, students, and families are demanding that Congress get ESEA right this time by ushering in a new and improved vision for our nation’s public schools—a vision that promotes opportunity, equity and excellence for all students regardless of the zip code in which they live.
“We will continue to fight until we have a new federal education bill signed into law that focuses on students and includes the voices of educators,” emphasized Eskelsen García. “The only way to achieve that is to make sure that our members and the public are fully engaged. The stakes are high for our students and their future. That’s why we are springing into action again to make sure lawmakers hear directly from educators about what hasn’t worked and what needs to happen in order to get the law right this time.”
In February, NEA launched a successful nationwide campaign, “Get ESEA Right,” to get the public and educators engaged in the ESEA reauthorization process. The campaign included a six-figure ad, titled “Fix ESEA.” NEA has sent more than 1.5 million emails to its members about ESEA. NEA cyber advocates have sent nearly 130,000 emails to Congress about ESEA reauthorization. More than 500,000 NEA members received a piece of direct mail from NEA to raise awareness about ESEA and urge them to take action. And during just one week in February, NEA members visited 245 House of Representatives and 79 Senate offices.
During the April Wave of Action nationwide campaign, educators will reach out to parents, community partners, and the general public to raise their voices. They will leaflet parents at schools or in public places, attend community forums, host teach-ins, and write letters to the editor or opinion pieces in their local papers, among other proactive actions.
In Oklahoma, educators are holding “common sense testing” tours. Educators in St. Louis, Mo., are conducting teach-ins. Maine educators are putting forward “time to teach” resolutions before school boards. These actions are just the beginning of many more to come.
The TV ads are running in select media markets in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia., Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington state.