ESSA, the Community and the Black Pressby Dr. John E. Warren, Contributing Writer Revision II, NNPA Intergovernmental Affairs April 21, 2017
The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), signed into law on December 10, 2015, reauthorizes the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” (ESEA) of 1965. ESEA is the nation’s oldest education law. It was previously reauthorized when the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) was enacted in 2002 and additional revisions were enacted with the “Race to the Top Law.” ESEA was reauthorized in 2015. This reauthorization, ESSA, takes effect the 2017-2018 school-year. The new law returns decision making to the states for education programs. Among other things, it allows states and school districts to set their own funding levels for elementary and secondary education. This includes setting educational outcomes at the local levels.
Education has always been an important issue to African American communities as evidenced by the Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court Decision of 1954 and the many related cases that have followed. The implementation of ESSA is providing an opportunity to continue in that tradition. The new requirement for the submission of Consolidated State Plans to the U. S Department of Education in 2017 is providing an opportunity for the Black press to continue its role as a participant in the education of our youth.
The National Newspaper Publishers Association, the parent body of the 190-year-old Black press, is raising public awareness around ESSA by getting involved with educational stakeholders, families, school personnel, administrators and legislators. This will be done by NNPA member newspapers covering the news in their regions, and sponsoring Town Hall Meetings in their designated cities. The articles and meetings will consist of discourse around ESSA’s programs, intent, redirected state involvement and the participation of Stakeholders. Articles produced by the NNPA and their member publishers are crucial; informing parents and the community about how to get involved with the education of our children. Town Hall Meetings will allow NNPA member newspapers to provide regular listening, learning and participation forums for parent and community stakeholders’ voices to be heard. Families, community organizations, and educators will play an important role in these events. The articles and information that member newspapers publish about ESSA will inform the community about the goal to close the achievement gap, well-rounded curriculum, highly qualified teachers, and what it means to minimize the amount of high-stakes assessments. Engaging the community in the process of goal setting in public education, will stimulate a more focus commitment to the implementation of rigorous state standards, equity, local control, performance, and accountability.
The involvement of the National Newspaper Publishers Association in its partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase public awareness of the ESSA Law is crucial to creating the outreach that will bring to the table those who think they no longer have a role in public education. History confirms what can happen when the press fulfils its responsibility. When America was experiencing the desegregation of public schools because of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision of 1954, the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965, l it was the Black Press that carried the struggles into the hearts and homes of people of color and America in general. The resulting parent involvement in such programs as Title I and Education of the Handicapped did not fulfill the dreams of equal education, but those parents saw results although many were not long lasting. Between 1965 and 2001 changes in funding and direction in education, reduced parent involvement.
Today with the onslaught of social media, fake news and alternative facts, the proven and reliable track record of the Black press is more important than ever before. The future Articles, reports, analysis and fact sheets to be provided to our communities through the efforts of the National Newspaper Publishers Association member newspapers will make the Every Student Succeeds Act a reality with parents and communities throughout the states.