The NAACP’s approach to solving that problem will represent a shift in the focus of its efforts to influence national education policy, from the courts to the statehouses, said Jealous. “What these four reforms represent is four big legislative goals for the association,” he explained. “In our first century, the battle was primarily about federal litigation [e.g. Brown v. Board of Education]. In our second century the battle is increasingly about state and county legislation.”
Speaking of shifts in focus, we asked Secretary Duncan what’s going to be different about education policy during President Obama’s second term, especially with respect to closing the achievement gap. Based on his response, don’t expect any major changes in approach. “We’re going to continue to push very hard at every level,” Duncan told The Root. “It’s not about left turns; we want to stay focused.”
Then he laid out the following game plan: “We want to continue to invest heavily in early child education. You saw us in the first [Obama] term do $600 million, and our department sort of hadn’t done anything there — huge leadership by the president there.
“We want to continue to push very hard on the K-12 reform agenda, and see states implement higher standards, which is hugely important. Then we have to make college more accessible and affordable, so I’m obviously so proud that we had the additional $40 billion in Pell Grants in the first term — without going back to taxpayers for a nickel. But the cost of college is still a tremendous burden, not just for disadvantaged communities, but for middle-class families.
“So it has to be a cradle-to-career agenda, and we have to educate our way to a better economy.”
The NAACP’s report, “Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America’s Children,” can be read here.
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is managing editor of The Root.