WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 2, 2015) — The Organization of Chinese Americans is disappointed with the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also called the Student Success Act.
The current iteration of ESEA has failed to incorporate key civil rights priorities for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and LGBT communities, including data disaggregation and federal protections for safe schools. While the ESEA includes new programs and initiatives that seek to correct the stringent policies of No Child Left Behind, the lack of data disaggregation and protection of students from bullying and discrimination marks a significant step back from ensuring equal protection of the AAPI and LGBT communities.
“The AAPI community includes over 48 distinct ethnic groups and over 300 languages. Disaggregating AAPI data is vital to ensuring that all students are counted and their needs adequately assessed, so that they can have equitable access to the resources they need to receive an adequate education,” said Vicki Shu, OCA National Vice President of Public Affairs. “Equal educational opportunities create pathways to success for all which are essential for our nation’s economic future. Without data disaggregation in ESEA, the struggles and disparities within our community will remain invisible.”
“Asian American students can face greater levels of bullying and harassment because of their immigration status, traditions and customs, or language skills. Additionally, LGBT children represent some of the most vulnerable students to bullying and harassment in schools because of discrimination against their sexual orientation and gender identity. We are especially concerned when these two identities intersect with the well-being of Asian American LGBT students, who may face mistreatment for their race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, or gender-identity, all at once,” continued Shu. “The failure of ESEA to implement non-discrimination and anti-bullying measures withholds federal protection of all students. Without explicit, national legislation requiring this essential protection, we cannot ensure the safety of any students in our school system. As such, we cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation as it is a grave disservice to the AAPI community by failing to address these fundamental civil rights protections.”
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates is a national organization of community advocates dedicated to improving the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).
South East Asian Resource Action Center said this is the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the country’s most important civil rights bill designed to provide educational opportunities for students disadvantaged by poverty, racial discrimination, language proficiency, disability, or other conditions that may present barriers to their academic success. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the resettlement of more than 1.3 million Southeast Asian refugees in the United States, this country’s largest refugee population. Many of our students and families have and continue to rely on the provisions within ESEA to access educational opportunities that open the doors to success in America.
Throughout this year, SEARAC has stood with the civil rights community to fight for a stronger ESEA, one that would ensure that all vulnerable children would have access to a high quality education, an education that would prepare them to succeed in college, a career, and beyond. We have done this through the lens of our personal and shared refugee experiences, understanding the unique needs of a community that has suffered trauma, poverty, cultural barriers in understanding and navigating the public education system, and linguistic diversity. We have recommended policies with the perspective of 40 years of lessons past, while keeping in mind the needs of the current generation born in this country and the needs of the new refugees and immigrants that enter the United States, year after year.
While we are grateful for our Congressional champions and staff for acknowledging the challenges our diverse students face and working hard to promote solutions to address their needs, we regret to say that the new proposed legislation, the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” still fails to meet our expectations.
It fails to require better data collection and reporting on our students, perpetuating the Asian model minority myth by lumping all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders together, while denying resources to our students.
• It fails to provide assurances for timely interventions when students fail to meet academic goals.
• It gives far too much flexibility to schools to come up with new plans to close persistent achievement gaps, when those schools already struggle to meet the needs of students.
• It fails to ensure that schools and districts will address resource gaps, even when they are revealed through new, required data.
• It muddies the data on English language learners, by including students who have exited English learner programs four years prior.
• Last, but not least, it limits the federal role of the government, particularly the Secretary of Education, from more affirmatively and proactively setting guidelines to ensure states are meeting the needs of disadvantaged students.
While some would argue that any reauthorization is better than the current system of waivers and No Child Left Behind, we respectfully maintain that our children are too precious to settle for legislation that gives significant leeway to states without holding them accountable for the federal funds they receive. Our country has a regretful history in serving students disadvantaged by poverty, racial discrimination, language proficiency, and disability, and ESEA is the most important piece of legislation to correct that challenge. We cannot and will not support the currently proposed ESEA until we are satisfied that we are not turning back the clock on civil rights protections.
SEARAC will continue to work with our community partners nationwide to engage with Congressional leaders, staff, and the U.S. Department of Education to ensure that the voices of our students and families are heard and that their needs are being met. We believe that we can do better by our students, and we will continue our work with that conviction.