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"The quality of a child's education shouldn't be determined by the digits of their zip code," said Sen. Dodd.

On Sept. 5, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) announced the introduction of The Student Bill of Rights Act of 2002. The act builds on the No Child Left Behind Act and addresses inadequate resources in the nation’s public schools by holding states accountable for providing all students with access to the “fundamentals of educational opportunity” necessary to achieve high standards.

“The quality of a child’s education shouldn’t be determined by the digits of their zip code,” said Sen. Dodd. “This measure corrects that inequity by ensuring that each and every child’s school has the resources to provide them with a decent education, and in turn, an equal opportunity for a successful future.”

The bill sets forth seven fundamentals of educational opportunity: (1) highly qualified teachers, principals and academic support personnel (including additional academic support in reading or language arts); (2) rigorous academic standards, curricula and methods of instruction; (3) small class sizes; (4) quality textbooks and materials; (5) up-to-date library resources; (6) quality school facilities and computers; and (7) quality guidance counselors.

Under the legislation, states must establish three levels of access for the fundamentals of education (“basic,” “adequate,” and “ideal”) and define adequate yearly progress for each fundamental. States must report to the Secretary of Education on each school district and on each school’s access to fundamentals. Within 12 years, all schools must have at least adequate access to each fundamental.

States risk losing portions of their federal administrative funds if their public school systems do not meet the “adequate” level. A state demonstrates that it has met the bill’s requirements if it: (1) provides adequate access to each fundamental; (2) provides comparable educational services among Title I and non-Title I school districts; and (3) complies with court orders in matters concerning resource adequacy and equity. The bill also includes a provision that requires the U.S. Department of Education (in consultation with the National Academy of Sciences) to issue a report on the costs of ensuring that each state maintains a public school system that meets these provisions.

Importantly, the bill also provides students and parents a cause of action for declaratory and injunctive relief to enforce the legislation’s requirements. Monetary damages are not available under the bill.

“After almost 50 years of lawsuits, presidential commissions, research studies, and countless news stories, poor children in every state are still the least likely to get a quality education,” Rep. Fattah said. “The Student Bill of Rights asserts that this national scandal to deprive poor children of a decent education must end today.”


No Child Left Behind

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