King Calls for Supporters of Public Education to Unite on Behalf of Children

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U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. today called on supporters of public education to set aside political and policy differences and work together to ensure all students – and especially the most vulnerable students – get the opportunity they need to be successful.

During a speech at the Center for American Progress, King laid out a bold vision for how the country can unite and move forward in ensuring equity and excellence in public education – from preschool through college. (Note: The Secretary’s prepared remarks follow.)

“For all who believe that strong, equitable public education is central to a healthy democracy and a thriving economy, now is the moment for us to set aside the policy differences that we have let divide us, and move forward together courageously to defend and extend this fundamental American institution,” King said.

During his speech, King highlighted passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was signed into law by President Obama a year ago, as an opportunity to move the nation forward together. And he called on those who have been on either side of debates over issues including testing, accountability, charter schools, and effective teaching to come together around shared values.

“Today we have a choice to make. We can continue to argue amongst ourselves about our disagreements. Or we can work together in pursuit of larger goals,” King said. “Now, I am not saying that we have to agree on every tactic or strategy. We won’t. But I am saying that we can reject false dichotomies and disparaging rhetoric. We can stop questioning our natural allies’ intentions and fight side by side for the belief that every student in America has the right to a great public education.”

The nation has seen encouraging progress over the last eight years.

  • The high school graduation rate is at an all-time high of 83 percent;
  • Dropout rates are down, particularly for black and Latino students;
  • Hundreds of thousands more children are attending high quality pre-school programs;
  • Achievement gaps by race and gender are closing;
  • More black and Latino students are attending college; and
  • The most recent national data saw the largest, most diverse class completing higher education in our history.

“But, for all our progress, more is required to meet the challenges our nation will face in the years to come…,” King said. “It is not enough for those already prosperous to prosper. Unless we are ensuring that all Americans can meaningfully participate in our nation’s growth, our nation will not succeed.”

King also called for equitable funding for the students, schools and districts that need the most help, reiterated the benefits of school diversity for all students, and called on education leaders to remain focused on preschool quality and college completion.

“We must continue to press on, firm in the knowledge that when we pull others up, they do not pull us down. When the light of opportunity shines on those who lack it, it does not dim for those already in its glow.”

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