Dissension on the Political Front- United States Country Liaison Update

Submitted March 2017 by Pamela Gresham, Country Liaison, United States

The United States is in a period of transition in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election. There has been much dissension on the political front, and policies regarding education, immigration, trade, security, health care, and minority populations have been main sources of conflict.

Elisabeth Prince DeVos: New Secretary of Education

A large source of contention concerns school choice and privatization of schools. The appointment of Elisabeth Prince DeVos as Secretary of Education therefore has been a source of major tension. She is the first Secretary of Education that has never attended or enrolled her own children in public schools (Education Week, 2016). The National Education Association (NEA) has posted a letter from its President, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, stating NEA’s position in support of public education and calling for Secretary of Education DeVos to answer questions regarding her position on some key education issues. Clips of Secretary DeVos’ hearing can be found online, along with numerous perspective pieces regarding her testimony.

Education policies

While local and state governments determine much of education policy, federal policies also affect students, families, educators, PreK-12 schools, higher education institutions, and communities. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, replaced No Child Left Behind legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2017). It is yet to be determined if ESSA will proceed as originally introduced or will be modified by the new Administration.

Immigration:

The inclusion or exclusion of various populations in educational and community settings will have an immediate impact on children. Immigration policy has been of high interest and conflict throughout the campaign period and post-inauguration. In the near future, undocumented immigrants, including children, residing in the United States could be forced to leave the United States (CNN, 2017; NEA, 2017). Children and young people all over the country have been experiencing fear and anxiety regarding their future. Many community schools and institutions of higher education have taken a stand to protect currently enrolled students. Immigration is a complex topic with real people at its core. It will be essential for leaders in the new Administration to consider how policy will impact the lives of current and future immigrants. Immigrant children are often under extreme duress and have unique needs. Policies that protect and support the development of all children, including this vulnerable population, should be considered in upcoming policy proceedings.

Sustainable Development Goals:

There are many advocates in the United States for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals support the development of children and people, especially in vulnerable and at-risk communities around the world. The fourth goal is to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” (United Nations, 2016). It is imperative for SDG4 advocates to be active in ensuring progress toward achieving this goal. U.S. education and immigration policies will have a direct impact on the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4 in the United States.

More information will become available regarding policies related to children, education, human rights, and other foundational areas of development as the new administration moves forward. It is the hope of many that people in positions to make policy decisions will examine all perspectives and make policies that are supportive of healthy and holistic development for all children.

Activities:

Professional development is an essential component of an advocate’s work. As a result, I continue to research, attend, and present at various events. These opportunities to connect with other professionals is essential if we are to live in an equitable world.

A conference hosted by the Indiana Association for the Gifted in December 2016, included wonderful opportunities to learn about education research and opportunities for children and young people. Providing appropriately differentiated instruction to all learners, including gifted individuals, is extremely important. Sometimes overlooked or misidentified, exceptional students deserve instruction and learning opportunities that allow their potential to be realized and nurtured. The invitation to share, learn, and encourage each other through the research and facilitation of an education advocate was a wonderful opportunity. I was also able to present a session regarding education practices that helped me and others develop skills to escape from generational poverty.

On February 18, 2017, I participated in an event to raise awareness and funds for children in a neighborhood of great economic depression. During the event, I was asked to speak about my own childhood experiences and trauma. Many people are unaware of the abuse, neglect, and hunger that are often a part of the culture of poverty. Hope is a powerful and desperately needed message. Ordinary people made the difference in my life through sharing their time and resources, and we can likewise change the lives of vulnerable children and families today.

The upcoming Institute of the Center for Education Diplomacy hosted by ACEI  will allow me to continue learning and sharing. I look forward to learning global perspectives and inclusive practices that help support all children and youth mentally, emotionally, cognitively, and physically. During the Institute, I will be sharing about the BEST Scholars Program, an initiative that prepares educational professionals to transform lives and communities through inclusive excellence.

Keep working toward a world where all children know they are loved and valued.

For more information:

Cable News Network: http://cnn.com

Education Week: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2016/11/education_of_barron_trump_and_other_first_kids.html

National Education Association: http://www.nea.org/

NEA Garicia Letter to DeVos: http://lilysblackboard.org/2017/02/betsy-devos-called-sent-letter/

DeVos Clip and nprED story: http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/01/17/510274817/watch-live-betsy-devos-secretary-of-education-confirmation-hearing

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/

Immigration: http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/06/us/immigration-statistics-fast-facts/

Issues/America First Initiatives: https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-energy

Every Student Succeeds Act: https://www.ed.gov/essa?src=policy

Dziko Crews