Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization (ESEA), Remarks by Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Good morning everyone. I’m Tom Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber.
Thank you for being here today.
Joining me are former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who is president of the Chamber’s Center for Policy Innovation…
And David Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky chamber.
Also here, in the first row, is Mike Edwards, head of the Knoxville chamber. Mike, we appreciate your being here and your support for our education reform efforts.
Each of us on the panel is going to make some very brief remarks before we take your questions.
I will need to depart at 10:30 a.m., but David and Margaret will be happy to stay until all of your questions are answered.
Why Business Cares
Why does business care about education?
Because we care about this country … because we have families and children … and because we need to be able to create and retain jobs in this country.
Put simply, we need good workers … workers who can reason and communicate and are prepared for the workforce.
Today we’re facing a huge skills gap, which will only grow worse over time.
A great divide has emerged in the United States between the education and skills of the American workforce and the needs of the nation’s employers.
By 2020, 123 million American jobs will be high-skill, high-wage, but only 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill them.
When it comes to improving education, the stakes are nothing less than the continued success and competitiveness of the American economy—and the continued viability of the American Dream.
The Impact of NCLB
So we’re here today for a simple reason—to urge the White House and Congress to work with the business community to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind.
Over the past 10 years, NCLB has been widely debated.
From our perspective, the law has resulted in much needed progress in three areas— providing needed data and information on how well our students and schools are performing; turning around low-performing schools; and increasing options for parents and students.
By measuring academic performance—and publicizing the results—NCLB has held schools accountable to students, parents, and taxpayers—like those of us in the business community.
The law has dramatically enhanced public school choice by expanding charter schools. Today 1.5 million children attend nearly 5,000 charter schools in 40 states, three times more schools and students than in 2000.
No Child Left Behind also set high standards, establishing real deadlines—and real consequences if those deadlines are not met.
So NCLB has been an important step forward, and we’re proud our colleague Margaret Spellings played an instrumental role in its passage.
But even Margaret would acknowledge that it’s not perfect and can be improved.
In fact, it must be improved. Reform efforts must be strengthened. We need to double down on education reform if we are going to meet the demands of a global economy.
The collection of data made possible by NCLB has taught us one thing—
improvement isn’t happening fast enough.
Today, one-third of all high school students do not graduate in four years. It’s one-half for minorities.
40% of those who do make it to college require remedial work.
We lag behind other developed countries when it comes to math and science.
These are sobering statistics. While we have seen some improvement under No Child Left Behind, especially for disadvantaged students, we need to step on the gas pedal of reform, not slam on the brakes.
When it comes to our commitment to the success of every child, we say: “No retreat. No surrender. No excuses.”
With our K-12 system in such dire straits, we cannot afford to pass up any opportunity for reform.
So we are going to devote significant resources to the strengthening of No Child Left Behind.
We’re going to apply the full force of our lobbying might on Capitol Hill …
Our policy experts are going to offer practical, achievable reforms that will move our system closer to excellence …
We’re going to use all of our communications assets to build grass roots support for reform …
And we’re going to use our bully pulpit to explain to elected officials, policy makers, and the American public just what is at stake.
For all those willing to work toward additional and accelerated reform, you have a partner in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
To those who seek to undermine, delay, or obstruct reform, I say your time is over. You are on the wrong side of history. The status quo cannot be defended—it is indefensible.
Parents, businesses, and more and more teachers reach that conclusion every single day.
So it’s time to get real, get serious, and get busy.
As we pursue educational excellence, we will partner with other groups who stand for the same principles.
Margaret understands how a unique coalition of business and civil rights groups can advocate on behalf of kids.
I’d now like to call on Margaret to lay out the Chamber’s principles for reform of No Child Left Behind and how we can improve it.