On Wednesday, in the first major public event following its kickoff, the Strong American Schools campaign partnered with MTV News to highlight the importance of education reform in the 2008 presidential campaign.
Held on the eve of the first Republican presidential primary debate, the event featured a roundtable discussion with school leaders and students discussing this issue and was moderated by Strong American Schools Chairman Roy Romer, California State Superintendent of Education Jack O'Connell and MTV News correspondent SuChin Pak. The event took place at Grant High School in Los Angeles.
Launched in April, Strong American Schools is a nonpartisan public awareness and action campaign designed to give a voice to every American who demands strong leadership to improve our schools. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the goal of the $60 million campaign is to elevate education reform to the top of the presidential-campaign agenda between now and November 2008.
"Each year, more than 1 million students drop out of high school. That's one child every 29 seconds," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "We all must demand that candidates and our leaders share their opinions and policies on how our country will offer all young people Strong American Schools."
"The American dream is slipping away, and unless our leaders dramatically improve our public schools, our standard of living, our economy and our very democracy will be threatened," said Eli Broad, founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. "Our country's education system is no longer the best in the world. We need every American to demand better schools and specific policy solutions from presidential candidates. Our future depends on it."
Seventy percent of all American eighth-graders are not proficient in reading and most will never catch up. In California alone, 45 percent of college freshmen are not prepared for college-level English and are required to take remedial catch-up courses, according to a new study by the California State University System.
Strong American Schools launched its "ED in '08" campaign last month on the eve of the first Democratic Party primary debate in South Carolina. "ED in '08" is a public awareness and action campaign that will mobilize the public and presidential candidates around solutions for the country's education crisis. The campaign brings together for the first time leaders of all major political parties who are willing to address education as an American challenge rather than a narrow political issue. Strong American Schools will use the tools of a modern presidential campaign to take the issue to the general public and give Americans many ways for their voices to be heard — including on-the-ground activities in key presidential primary states and a cutting-edge interactive E-campaign based on the Web at EDin08.com.
As part of its call to action, Strong American Schools will urge leaders to address and debate three common-sense priorities that hold tremendous promise for improving education:
» Strong American education standards. Regardless of where they live, all students need to acquire knowledge and skills that prepare them for college, for the workplace, and for life.
» Effective teachers in every classroom. We need to enable teachers to improve their skills, measure teachers' performance in the classroom, and pay them more if they produce superior results or take on challenging assignments.
» More time and support for learning. We need to provide successful and struggling students alike more time for in-depth learning and greater personal attention.
The effort is a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, an independent nonprofit organization providing program and management services for the campaign. Strong American Schools does not support or oppose any candidate for public office and does not take positions on legislation.
To join the "ED in '08" campaign, and for more information, log on to EDin08.com.