"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Democrats Abroad Public Education Platform

This resolution was submitted to the DNC this week by Democrats Abroad France with the request that it be added to and approved as part of Democratic Platform for the next election cycle. Democrats Abroad is the official Democratic Party organization for Americans who are living outside the United States and is recognized as a "state" Party by the Democratic National Committee (DNC). It is represented on the DNC by eight voting members, as well as at the quadrennial Democratic National Convention.

Democrats living in America. Is this what YOU think education should be?
Issued to the Democratic Party platform committee in Washington DC.

Proposed by Chair Democrats Abroad France, Constance Borde assisted by the Democrats Abroad France Education Policy Group Chair: Dr. Leslie J. Limage
(Originally submitted to DA Resolutions Committee on September 14, 2011, Approved for transmission to the DA Platform Committee by the DCPA on October 17, 2011, Washington, D.C.)

WHEREAS education is a human right and public responsibility to provide all children and young people with the opportunity to realize their full potential (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, UNESCO). Here is the full text of Article 26

Article 26.

  1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

WHEREAS ongoing policies inherited from the previous U.S. Administration and carried forward by current leadership are undermining the quality of education as well as our longstanding commitment to equal opportunity, the alleviation of poverty, civil rights and respect for linguistic, social and cultural diversity in a misplaced reliance on business practices and privatization of public education.

WHEREAS what we need to improve education is a strong, highly respected education profession; a rich curriculum in the arts and sciences, available in every school for every child; assessments that gauge what students know and can do, and a government that is prepared to change the economic and social conditions that interfere with children’s readiness to learn.

WHEREAS we cannot improve education by quick fixes, by handing over our public schools to entrepreneurs, by driving out experienced professionals replacing them with enthusiastic amateurs, or by closing them and firing teachers and entire staff. No country in the world follows such strategies.

WHEREAS disadvantage in our country is exacerbated by unsafe and crumbling schools. Over the past three years, investments in school improvements have benefited the wealthier districts disproportionately. The President’s new job’s creation legislation announced in his September 9, 2011 speech to Congress on an “American Jobs Act” is intended to remedy this situation and we need to ensure that it does in fact do so.

BE IT RESOLVED that Democrats Abroad adopt the following education policy foundations for our platform in 2012 many of which already figured in our 2008 Platform and that these principles figure in our 2012 Party Platform:

The Purpose of education: is to enable all children and young people to reach their full potential as individuals and become socially responsible citizens of our country and the world.
Equality of opportunity and non-discrimination are the foundations of our democratic society and must be reflected in all aspects of educational governance, management, finance, school facilities, teaching and support professions.

Formative Evaluation and Assessment should encourage learning. The evaluation of students should be diagnostic. The results of student evaluation should not be used to evaluate teachers and schools as institutions. The evaluation of schools should celebrate the strengths of community ownership of and improvement by school communities.

The teaching and school leadership professions. Teachers and their organizations should be viewed by governments as equal partners, independent but committed to the common endeavor of achieving successful education systems. School leadership, governance and management also require professional knowledge and the specificity of public service and education. Outsourcing any aspect of educational leadership de-professionalizes key foundations of our education systems and decision-making based on knowledge, experience, trust and democratic principles. Education professionals’ collective bargaining rights acquired over many years should be respected rather than threatened.

Educational facilities: quality, safe and environmentally friendly schools. Public schools are an important element of our nation’s infrastructure. Repairing strengthening, upgrading and constructing schools are essential. A nationwide effort needs to be initiated to anticipate and improve the adaptability of the nations’ existing and yet to be built school infrastructure, including regular rehabilitation and upgrades.

Promoting Equality through Inclusive Education. It is the responsibility of public authorities to ensure that all citizens have access to high quality education services appropriate to their needs. All barriers to education must be removed in order to make school accessible for all persons. Any school receiving public funding should not be permitted to select its students based on their likelihood of meeting testing standards, much less because of race, ethnic origin, sex, or religion.

Early Childhood Care and Education: Free, High Quality Public Preschool Programs
Early childhood care and education is intended to meet the needs of the whole child. The Federal government should provide assistance to states for the creation of free, universal, voluntary pre-kindergarten programs. They should encourage linkage of universal preschool with the resources, infrastructure and talent of the public school system. The Federal government should also ensure that states require the licensing and certification of all preschool instructors.

Primary and Secondary Education. Quality primary and secondary education are the basis on which all further learning takes place and young adults are equipped with the critical thinking skills and knowledge to make further educational and professional choice throughout their lives. These levels of education are public responsibility. The Federal government’s first responsibility is to set the bar higher than it has ever been in terms of equality of access and service, rather than lowering it to enable “market” forces to play.

Higher Education: Access, Academic Freedom and Quality. Action must be taken to improve equal access to all forms of tertiary education and reduce the cost of higher education. A key characteristic of successful individuals and societies is the quality of higher education. It is not a matter of “competition” worldwide or for scarce “jobs” within our country. It is an absolutely necessary building block for realizing human potential and constructing democratic, open and globally responsible world citizens.

Protection of education as a public good in a period of economic austerity. All concerned citizens should work to re-take and then re-build quality public education. The trends towards privatization and outsourcing of our children’s future are undermining democratic institutions at home and internationally. We need informed citizenry to begin to re-establish democratic values and institutions that respect them.

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