Each February in Washington, school board members from across the nation meet to review key issues facing public schools. We also visit with our U.S. senators and representatives to advocate for public education. The National School Boards Association sponsors the event that each year draws more than 1,000 school board members.
As one of nearly 20 school board members from Georgia, I was part of the Georgia School Boards Association’s 2011 Federal Relations Network that met jointly with U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss in the Russell Senate Building.
I also met with Georgia’s 7th District U.S. Representative Rob Woodall, serving his first year as a member of the 112th Congress. Our group also heard about the state of the nation’s public schools from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
A major issue for study was the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act that became the 2001 No Child Left Behind law. These laws authorized the federal government to provide funds to the states to reduce poverty for poor children and support public schools that serve them. Reauthorization of NCLB is needed because its official timeframe has elapsed.
Many believe 2011 will be the year that Congress reauthorizes No Child Left Behind. As we met with Isakson and Chambliss, as I met with Woodall and as we heard Duncan, we noted the importance of movement forward on the legislation.
Isakson spoke of his continuing support of Title I — the major legislative program of NCLB that provides funds for students in poverty and the public schools serving them. He also spoke of his support of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which serves more than 18,000 students in Gwinnett County. Isakson serves on the Senate Education, Labor and Workforce Committee.
Chambliss spoke of his commitment to the child nutrition legislation — a close companion to the Title I program — that provides healthy food and nutrition options for students in public schools. He was actively involved as this legislation was approved in fall 2010. Chambliss is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Woodall spoke of his appreciation of serving as the representative of Gwinnett County Public Schools and the county’s 2010 Broad Prize for the Best Urban Public School System in the nation. He has spoken of this at community meetings and gatherings in Gwinnett County and throughout the 7th District. He has been appointed as a freshman member of the House Budget Committee.
When Duncan addressed the thousand or more school board members from throughout the nation, he spoke of his commitment to spotlighting public school systems that are doing great work and providing exemplary leadership.
He spoke of his recent travels to the nation’s schools as “A Tale of Two Cities.” Duncan said he visited Gwinnett County — a shining example of outstanding public education. He commended the superintendent, teachers, students and parents, community business partners, and the local board for achieving the Broad Prize.
Then he spoke of the other city — nameless here. He said it is a city where school board members forgot who they are serving. He said they forgot that their work is for students — not for themselves and other adults.
Thank you to Isakson, Chambliss, Woodall and Duncan. They know and continue to remember “It’s for the children and not the adults.”
Mary Kay Murphy represents District 3 on the Gwinnett Board of Education.