Americans for Democratic Action recently adopted “A Vision of American Public Education” to guide education policy for strengthening our democratic society and improving the economic, ethical and intellectual prosperity our citizens deserve. ADA urges all Members of Congress to adopt this vision in allocating resources and making decisions about public education in America. Some major points of this vision are:

ADA urges a commitment to equity and excellence in American public education and calls for effective actions to ensure equal, equitable access to high-quality education for all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, economic status, parental status and place of residence.

Public education is the cornerstone of our nation’s economic vitality, national security, and its social, cultural and political institutions. Our nation’s future depends on well-supported higher quality public education at all levels so that students receive the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind for productive citizenship, active civic engagement and sustained competitive employment.

Free, Universal, High-Quality Public Education is a pillar of our democratic society and essential for its economic and cultural growth, is a fundamental right of all children and adolescents – from early childhood through college – in the United States and its territories.

State and Federal Funding for public education (pre-kindergarten through college) must be equitable and sufficient, and, therefore must not rely on local/state property taxes, and should come from graduated income, corporate, estate and other taxes.

The federal role should focus especially on enforcement of civil rights laws, funding directed to rural and urban high-poverty schools, special education, and districts that need aid to improve the quality of teaching and learning. ADA favors a return to the original focus of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which directed federal funds where they were most needed.

Only federal judges who are committed to civil rights in education and to integrated communities that are the necessary underpinning of racially and ethnically integrated schools should be named by Presidents and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Charter Schools, to the extent that they exist, should be public schools regulated by state education agencies as parts of public school districts, subject to financial reporting, accountability measures, teacher qualifications, and basic laws and regulations required of all public schools.

Public monies must fund only schools that operate under public school boards. Neither individuals nor private companies or organizations should profit from charter school operations.

Vouchers, tax deductions and tax credits that enable public school students to attend private and parochial schools should end.

Student Assessment should aim to affect student outcomes, to understand what and how students are learning, diagnose learning needs, inform instruction and curriculum development, guide professional development, illustrate trends in learning, and to direct resource allocations.

High stakes student testing is detrimental to the learning process and should be eliminated.  Only tests, multiple measures, and testing instruments that have been carefully developed with teachers, particularly for diagnostic and prescriptive purposes, should be required.

Accountability should address all components of the public education system, including students, teachers, administrators, board members, schools, districts and states, and should use fair, scientifically tested measurements, developed with teacher involvement.

All schools must be safe and secure and have effective reasonable rules and regulations consistent with creating and maintaining positive learning environments in accessible, sufficient, spaces.

Teachers: Status, Roles, and Responsibilities: Teachers should be highly regarded, valued, respected professionals, and must be compensated with salaries and benefits reflective of their responsibilities, preparation, experience, and accomplishments. They should have the authority and flexibility to address individual needs, to practice in accordance with state and national standards and to ensure that all students succeed at the highest levels possible.

Teacher Education and Preparation programs should create clinically based models of collaboration between teacher education and public PreK-12 institutions and include research and development agendas that feature systematic gathering and use of data to support improvement.

Learning Outcomes: All students should have the opportunities to and be expected to:

  • Know and understand human cultures and the natural and physical world, through studies grounded in the sciences, mathematics, social and behavioral sciences, humanities, histories, languages and the arts.
  • Acquire intellectual and practical skills for applying knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to changing settings and challenging questions.
  • Develop individual and social responsibility.

Curriculum and Learning Experiences must provide content knowledge, habits of thinking deeply, analytical skills, enduring understandings, learning dispositions, and decision-making skills.