By Congresswoman Gwen Moore
President Johnson was on the frontlines in our battle for civil rights. And he understood – before so many others did – that education is a civil rights issue. He made elementary and secondary education the cornerstone of the War on Poverty. He understood that our entire society benefits when every child has a chance to succeed.
The call to continue this work is as strong today as ever because a child’s zip code still determines the quality of education he or she will get. This isn’t equal opportunity, and we can do better.
In Milwaukee, Black children have some of the worst reading outcomes in the entire country. We must do better.
Wisconsin, like most states, has been facing budget problems. And our kids have paid the price – losing art, gym, computers and libraries. And now 700 teachers in Milwaukee have been given pink slips resulting in bigger class sizes that inevitably deny our kids a better education. They need every qualified teacher we have.
We can do better. We must do better.
I am a strong supporter of emergency funding that will go directly to our schools to prevent teachers nationwide from losing their jobs — $23 billion would keep 300,000 teachers in classrooms across the country.
It would stop class sizes from exploding to as many as 50 kids. And in many cases, it would stop from making a bad situation even worse. It would keep support staff, librarians, gym teachers and art teachers enriching our kids’ lives – including 700 in my Congressional District.
My colleague and fellow Wisconsinite Congressman Dave Obey who is working on this emergency legislation has said “the economy may recover, but the kids won’t.”
Beyond this emergency in front of us, we need to ensure that all of our children, no matter their zip code, can receive a quality education.
We need to target funding to our kids who need it most.
Our most troubled schools need the most help, and policy should recognize this. You can count on the Congressional Black Caucus to always fight efforts that would take away funding from these schools for experiments. Any system that creates winners and losers out of our children flies in the face of equal opportunity. A child in Milwaukee shouldn’t have to compete against a child in Chicago, Los Angeles , Detroit or anywhere else.
We need to expand support services and increase community and parental involvement.
We know that what happens to our kids outside of the classroom has just as profound an impact on their success as what happens in the classroom.
It’s why Head Start and Gear Up are so important. It’s why Historically Black Colleges and Universities and TRIO and Upward Bound are so important. These all help make sure that kids have the help they need to be successful.
President Obama challenged us with an ambitious goal that the U.S. graduates more students from college than any other country. He realizes that — like many of us do — in order for America to be competitive in the 21st Century global economy, we have to invest in our children.
There is no way we will meet this goal if we leave any of our children behind.
We need to close the achievement gap.
We need to keep kids in school to boost high school graduation rates.
We need qualified teachers in classrooms.
This will help us ensure true equal opportunity for our children. This will move us closer to realizing President Obama’s goal. And this will help us create the next generation of leaders.
President Johnson was fighting this fight 50 years ago, and we must continue it today. We cannot give up. We cannot give in. Our children are counting on us.