Bennet pens op-ed for Washington Post: says U.S. must do a better job educating poor kids

Writing on the opinion page of today’s Washington Post
, U.S. Senator from Colorado Michael Bennet tells a scary story about education in America.

The kids he writes about are not waiting for superman, so much as they are waiting for one good teacher, one involved parent, one community committed to its schools.

Essentially, he says it is not enough that the children of U.S. senators and the children of journalists get a good education, but that every child should get a good education.

When federal money goes to schools, he says it needs to go to the schools that need it most.

From his column:

There are 100 members of the U.S. Senate, and they and their desks fit into a relatively small room where history is made from time to time. Imagine, as I have occasionally, that the chamber was a schoolroom and those 100 senators were American children from poor families.

Of our student-senators, only 14 would be able to read properly by the fourth grade — fully 86 would not. By the time our group reached eighth grade, only 12 would read at grade level and just 13 would be proficient eighth-grade mathematicians.

By the end of 12th grade, 57 of us would still be around to graduate high school. Of our graduating class, 19 would go to college, with more than a third needing at least one remedial course. Only nine of 100 would ultimately graduate from a four-year college into an economy in which a degree is becoming a necessary, though not always sufficient, passport to the middle class.

These outcomes reflect a very cruel, but astonishingly accepted, reality in our country: that the quality of your education is largely determined by the Zip code into which you are born. We tell our children this is the land of opportunity while denying them one of the most fundamental opportunities of all. This is the brutal plight of America’s poor children as Congress takes up the work of fixing No Child Left Behind.

Our work will be easier if we in the Senate recognize as our own the educational challenges facing children in poverty. As the father of three girls, I doubt very much that if any one of us faced the same odds for our children, we would remain in Washington very long. We would rush home from the Senate floor to make sure that our kids were in the best school with the best teachers. Shouldn’t there be the same sense of urgency about the education of every child in America?

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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