SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 11— Ted Mitchell, CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund and president of the California State Board of Education, called on Congress and the Administration to support key school reform measures in the final version of the Recovery Act.
Congressional and Administration negotiators reached agreement on the total size of the stimulus bill today, but final numbers for education are still in play. There were reports Wednesday that a key fund for reform—known as the State Incentive Grants in education, or the Race to the Top Fund—was being significantly reduced. The fund was originally proposed at $14.35 billion by the House and later the Senate reduced it to $6.85 billion; Mitchell urged passage of a final bill that funds the program at no less than the Senate level. He also called on Congress and the Administration to support other key reform-minded elements of the bill, including school-wide data systems, an Innovation Fund, and a Teacher Incentive Fund.
Mitchell, a leader in school innovation and the board of education president in the nation’s most populous state, praised essential job preservation measures in the education portion of the bill. But he urged Congress and the Administration to support and restore key reform provisions in the final version of the bill.
“The short-term benefits of the recovery measures that now represent common ground in Congress are clear, and utterly essential to preserve America’s education system, which is both the engine of future productivity and one of the country’s largest employers,” Mitchell said. “Yet much of that aid will flow largely through well-established formulas. While this will provide enormous relief, saving more than a quarter-million jobs, it won’t do enough to spur major changes in the places where our schools struggle most.”
Mitchell said improving low-performing schools is necessary for recovery because a well-educated work force is essential to keep our nation competitive in the international economy—where America is already slipping.
“When schools fail our children, they not only damage lives, they create an economic brake that holds back our international competitiveness,” Mitchell said. “To make recovery work, we have to do better, especially in places where schools routinely fail.”
In major American cities, barely half of students complete high school, and nationwide, of those who do graduate, far too many are unready for college. Four in 10 American college students must take remedial courses—and among African-American and Latino students, the figure is 6 in 10. America has fallen from first in the world in college attendance to tenth, and on tests, our kids rank behind those in the Czech Republic and Latvia.
“It’s not enough to restore the system that got us there,” Mitchell said. “To fuel a lasting recovery, we have to build a system that works better.”
“We have a historic opportunity to change the way schools work by combining recovery with reform, making a one-time investment that will pay lasting benefits,” Mitchell added. “We must see reform efforts as an essential element of recovery, because an educated work force is the core of our productivity.”
He said the reform provisions build on what is working in the nation’s best schools for low-income students—schools like Aspire Public Schools, Uncommon Schools, and KIPP. Cuts were reported Wednesday to the Race to the Top Fund, also known as State Incentive Grants. That fund would create incentives to states to invest in teacher quality and to establish strong standards for student learning, improve assessments of student progress, and build data systems that measure that progress. Also in peril are hundreds of millions of dollars that would assist in the placement of qualified teachers in our nation’s most underserved schools.
About NewSchools Venture Fund
NewSchools Venture Fund (www.newschools.org) is a national nonprofit venture philanthropy firm that has been working since 1998 to transform public education for underserved children by supporting education entrepreneurs who create nonprofit and for-profit organizations that have the power to catalyze system-wide change. Its investments are designed to make a significant systemic impact in some of the nation’s most challenged urban communities, including New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland, California.