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A Call for All-Encompassing Change

In HGSE’s Leadership Series, Education Trust CEO John King talks with Paul Reville about a strategy to address inequity across every domain of society.

From the classroom to summer programs to testing to teacher unions to school funding — not a single piece of the education system will be left untouched in the wake of the current pandemic. As a result, educators and leaders at every level must be prepared to advocate for all-encompassing change.

“In many ways, this crisis has brought into sharper relief inequities that we knew existed beforehand,” says John King, currently the president and CEO of the Education Trust. “We need a whole-family strategy that’s about addressing inequity across domains.” King spoke with Professor Paul Reville in the third installment of the HGSE Leadership Series, in a conversation that focused on the potential policy decisions leaders will be faced with as they restructure the education system to support the diverse needs of students and their families in uncertain times.

Having served as United States Secretary of Education from 2016 to 2017 and New York State Education Commissioner from 2011 to 2014, King has remained dedicated to preparing every child for success and understands the importance of policy to achieve that goal. He observes that stronger safety nets are necessary in order for schools and families to help every child reach their full potential. “We need a realization on the part of state and federal leaders that public education is the foundation of the long-term success not just of our economy but of our democracy. We can’t afford to undermine public education.”

Takeaways from the conversation

  • Deploy resources strategically. King predicts that the economic crisis will impact schools and a funding intervention from the federal government will be absolutely necessary. The recent stimulus will not be enough, particularly for high-needs districts who cannot rely on property values to drive funding in the way wealthier districts do.  
  • Use the summertime. While children will need access to high-quality, enriching summer programming, state and local leaders can also use the time to pilot new models and do long-term planning for the upcoming school year. It also provides a time to support teachers and offer professional development opportunities to prepare for the fall.
  • Put children and families at the center. “We need to have a conversation as a country about what we value,” King says, noting that leaders need to show they are invested in the future of young people in this country and one way to do that is to develop safety nets for children and their families.   
  • Recognize the limitations of the crisis and be prepared to address them in the future. While plans for distance learning must accommodate students with special needs, English language learners, and undocumented students, there are certain services that cannot be delivered within social distancing guidelines. Leaders must recognize these limitations and start developing a plan for making up that lost time when those regulations are relaxed.