Equal Opportunity in Americaby Representative Michael M. Honda
Posted on 2014-01-14
HONDA. Thank you, Congressman Garamendi, for putting these
evening discussions on the board here.
I want to also rise to join you and other colleagues of mine in commemorating the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's declaration of the war on poverty, and, as you had mentioned, President Franklin Roosevelt's effort to close the income gap. The inequities that we have faced and we are still facing are growing even larger today because of the gender pay gap, because of the unpaid portions where people have to leave their work in order to take care of their children or their families. Also, to be able to address the child care issues that became very prominent in the seventies, when both parents started to work and wondered how they were going to be addressing child care.
Also, we have the caregiver support, where adult children are taking care of their parents. We are seeing that this is a necessity that has crept up on our society and our community, almost very quietly, and become an issue because of different kinds of situations our parents are facing, not only because of the physical illness but because of the mental health illness that they have faced.
So all these things play a part in drawing down the resources of middle-income families trying to take care of their own responsibilities, raising their own family, and also the responsibility of their parents who are aging.
In the area of universal pre-K education and early childhood education, both President Roosevelt and Johnson knew that education is an important tool in this war on poverty and closing the income inequity gap.
Last week, I read an article in the Lexington-Herald Leader about two schools in east Kentucky, just hours apart from each other--Anchorage and Barbourville, two communities of about 3,000 in population.
The median household income in Anchorage is more than 3.5 times larger than the median income of that of Barbourville. Yet Barbourville spends only $8,000 per student, while Anchorage spends approximately $20,000 per student. Equal size population, only a couple hours apart.
The question comes up: Why is it that this country, our communities, continue to refuse to recognize the inequities in funding in our public schools? Why is that? The quality of education that our children receive should not be dependent on or determined by the ZIP Code in which they live or in which they were born. Each and every child should receive support according to their needs, not according to the ZIP Code in which they reside--each and every child.
In the fifties, when we realized that the States were responsible for education, we interpreted it as the States' constitutional responsibility to move forward on education, and we found that some States had a principle of separate but equal. In the fifties, we realized that that was not supportable, not constitutional, and this became an issue in our current time when we were able to bring this issue to the living rooms of our country through technology-- television. Upon this country and the States becoming more aware of what was going on, on a Federal level we moved the communities to correct this inequity, the unconstitutionality of separate but equal in our education systems and other policies in our different communities and different States.
Today, we have come to a point where we understand that equal opportunity for all children is a necessary principle, but I think, having studied education a little bit more, we should refine that principle into another principle, to wit: each and every child should receive support according to their needs, not according to the ZIP Codes or the median income of their parents.
One of the more important steps to accomplish this and achieve equity in funding for our youngsters in the preschool and early childhood education arena is to fully fund Head Start for each and every child. So we must encourage States to adopt a more equitable funding formula to ensure that each and every child receives the necessary financial and human resources required.
President Obama declared that he has an initiative that addresses universal preschool education. The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, passed a bond that said that we want more equitable funding for children in the State of California. We passed a bond that increased the funding for education to achieve more equitable funding for each and every child. It is the first step. It is the right direction, but we have miles and miles to go.
This journey for equitable funding for each and every child is a journey that we must continue and start now, in order to achieve the civil rights of each and every child in this country.