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Teachers College National Access Network Convenes National Conference

The sixth annual national Quality Education conference, Schools for Our Future: Ensuring Quality Education for All Children, was held in Washington D.C. on June 5th and 6th. The conference convened education policy makers, attorneys and advocates who are working for educational equity and adequate funding in their states.

Teachers College National Access Network Convenes National Conference

"Is this nation going to truly be free and democratic?" asked Wendy Puriefoy, President of the Public Education Network, in her welcoming remarks at the sixth annual national Quality Education conference, Schools for Our Future: Ensuring Quality Education for All Children,  held in Washington D.C. in early June.  Puriefoy answered her own question with a challenge to reinvigorate "the habit of quality public education.  In fact, the very status of our society as free and democratic depends upon educating youth as citizens."

The two-day conference was organized and hosted by the National Access Network at Teachers College and drew 170 participants from 38 states and the District of Columbia to engage in advocacy and policy discussions about real-world educational successes, holding public officials accountable, making quality education a civil right and more.  Co-sponsored by the Public Education Network, the Education Law Center and the Rural School and Community Trust, the conference convened education policy makers, attorneys and advocates who are working for educational equity and adequate funding in their states.  With plaintiffs winning a growing number of school funding litigations in state courts, the conference also focused on how best to make use of the funds won through remedial legislation.

"We must broadcast the message that all students can learn and have a right to equal access to comprehensive educational opportunity," said Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director of The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College in the opening plenary.  He urged the group "to continue to be a driving force for implementing standards-based reform and ensuring that hard-won funding is well-spent for student achievement."

The National Access Network came to Teachers College with Rebell in June 2005 when he was named Executive Director of TC's Campaign for Educational Equity.  Molly A. Hunter is the Director of the National Access Network. 

The conference also offered plenary sessions on "Costing-Out" -- studies conducted to determine the resources schools need to be able to provide a specified level of opportunity to students and the cost of those resources -- and the upcoming congressional reauthorization debate on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  In additional break-out sessions, participants discussed topics such as recruiting and retraining teachers and the importance of after-school and other extended time programs.

Retired Justice Gary Stein of the New Jersey Supreme Court told the room full of education advocates, "your responsibility goes beyond winning the case and getting the money -- you must make sure that the money is properly spent." Stein discussed what he described as the many successes and few failures of New Jersey's implementation of the state supreme court's Abbott school finance decisions, many of which he took part in during his tenure on the court. 

While representatives of national organizations all applauded NCLB's stated goal of achieving equality of educational opportunity -- and of holding schools accountable for the results --  most were critical of the law's implementation. "NCLB gives you 37 ways to fail but only one way to pass," said David Shreve, of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many panelists said that the law has failed to provide schools with resources necessary to meet the goals, while others cited problems with NCLB's processes for assessments and sanctions. 

However, Sarah Rittling, counsel to Representative Mike Castle who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Education Reform, cautioned the group that there is a "willingness to listen to proposed revisions to the bill, but there is support for the legislation in Congress and even those legislators who at one time called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education are in support of NCLB."

In a looking-ahead session on the concluding day of the conference, Marty Strange, Policy Director for the Rural Trust reminded conference attendees that quality education for all children "must be won in the hearts and minds of the people and in the court of public opinion."

To learn more about specific sessions, please go to the conference button on the Access home page, www.schoolfunding.org.

Published Monday, Jun. 26, 2006

Teachers College National Access Network Convenes National Conference

Teachers College National Access Network Convenes National Conference

"Is this nation going to truly be free and democratic?" asked Wendy Puriefoy, President of the Public Education Network, in her welcoming remarks at the sixth annual national Quality Education conference, Schools for Our Future: Ensuring Quality Education for All Children,  held in Washington D.C. in early June.  Puriefoy answered her own question with a challenge to reinvigorate "the habit of quality public education.  In fact, the very status of our society as free and democratic depends upon educating youth as citizens."

The two-day conference was organized and hosted by the National Access Network at Teachers College and drew 170 participants from 38 states and the District of Columbia to engage in advocacy and policy discussions about real-world educational successes, holding public officials accountable, making quality education a civil right and more.  Co-sponsored by the Public Education Network, the Education Law Center and the Rural School and Community Trust, the conference convened education policy makers, attorneys and advocates who are working for educational equity and adequate funding in their states.  With plaintiffs winning a growing number of school funding litigations in state courts, the conference also focused on how best to make use of the funds won through remedial legislation.

"We must broadcast the message that all students can learn and have a right to equal access to comprehensive educational opportunity," said Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director of The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College in the opening plenary.  He urged the group "to continue to be a driving force for implementing standards-based reform and ensuring that hard-won funding is well-spent for student achievement."

The National Access Network came to Teachers College with Rebell in June 2005 when he was named Executive Director of TC's Campaign for Educational Equity.  Molly A. Hunter is the Director of the National Access Network. 

The conference also offered plenary sessions on "Costing-Out" -- studies conducted to determine the resources schools need to be able to provide a specified level of opportunity to students and the cost of those resources -- and the upcoming congressional reauthorization debate on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).  In additional break-out sessions, participants discussed topics such as recruiting and retraining teachers and the importance of after-school and other extended time programs.

Retired Justice Gary Stein of the New Jersey Supreme Court told the room full of education advocates, "your responsibility goes beyond winning the case and getting the money -- you must make sure that the money is properly spent." Stein discussed what he described as the many successes and few failures of New Jersey's implementation of the state supreme court's Abbott school finance decisions, many of which he took part in during his tenure on the court. 

While representatives of national organizations all applauded NCLB's stated goal of achieving equality of educational opportunity -- and of holding schools accountable for the results --  most were critical of the law's implementation. "NCLB gives you 37 ways to fail but only one way to pass," said David Shreve, of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many panelists said that the law has failed to provide schools with resources necessary to meet the goals, while others cited problems with NCLB's processes for assessments and sanctions. 

However, Sarah Rittling, counsel to Representative Mike Castle who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Education Reform, cautioned the group that there is a "willingness to listen to proposed revisions to the bill, but there is support for the legislation in Congress and even those legislators who at one time called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education are in support of NCLB."

In a looking-ahead session on the concluding day of the conference, Marty Strange, Policy Director for the Rural Trust reminded conference attendees that quality education for all children "must be won in the hearts and minds of the people and in the court of public opinion."

To learn more about specific sessions, please go to the conference button on the Access home page, www.schoolfunding.org.

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