Illinois State Board of Education Has Process Whereby Individuals Can Report Violations of Their Right to Pray in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment requires public school officials to show neither favoritism toward nor hostility against religious expression such as prayer.  Although the Constitution forbids public school officials from directing or favoring prayer in their official capacities, students and teachers do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”[1]

For example, “nothing in the Constitution . . . prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday,”[2] and students may pray with fellow students during the school day on the same terms and conditions that they may engage in other conversation or speech.  Students may also speak to, and attempt to persuade, their peers about religious topics just as they do with regard to political topics.

The Department of Education is required by law to issue guidance regarding the constitutionally protected right to pray in public elementary and secondary schools and to revise this guidance every two years.[3]  On January 16, 2020, the Department revised the guidance for the first time since 2003.  The guidance explains that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 requires that as a condition of receiving funds, local educational agencies (LEA) must certify in writing to their state educational agencies (SEA) that the LEA has no policy that prevents, or otherwise denies participation in, constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools.

A covered LEA must provide this certification to the SEA by October 1.  There is no specific federal form for the certification.  By November 1, each SEA must send to the Secretary a list of those LEAs that have not filed the required certification or that have been the subject of a complaint to the SEA alleging a violation of the right to constitutionally protected prayer in public schools.  Furthermore, the 2020 Guidance clarifies that the SEA must provide a process for filing a complaint against an LEA that allegedly denies a person, including a student or employee, the right to participate in constitutionally protected prayer.

In response, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) created a helpful website with resources for families and a complaint mechanism for individuals who believe their right to constitutionally protected prayer in public elementary and secondary schools has been violated.  Specifically, there is a standardized protected prayer complaint form and dedicated email address (protectedprayer@isbe.net) for receipt of complaints.  The Department commends the ISBE for taking seriously this fundamental right.  The Department notes that SEAs are not required to adopt ISBE’s process, but that ISBE’s process represents one way in which SEAs may comply with their obligations under Section 8524(b) of the ESEA.

[1] Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).

[2] Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290, 313 (2000).

[3] 20 U.S.C. § 7904(a).

RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS MAY APPLY FOR FEDERAL MONEY TO OPEN CHARTER SCHOOLS

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently announced that religious organizations may apply for federal money to open charter schools through the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program (CSP). She said, “the Department of Education will no longer discriminate and will allow for and welcome religiously affiliated applicants for the CSP.”

She made the announcement to applause on October 26, 2020, at a forum in Louisville, Kentucky. The forum was organized by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions (BIPPS) and the Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition (K-PAC) to discuss education reform, including school choice, in response to the low achievement rates in Jefferson County Public Schools and the increasing achievement gaps between black and white students within the largest school district in Kentucky.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines “charter school” as a “public school” that is “exempt from significant State or local rules that inhibit the flexible operation and management of public schools,” but that is nonetheless “operated under public supervision and direction.” 20 U.S.C. § 7221i(2)(A) and (B). The ESEA also states no charter school may be “affiliated” with any “sectarian school or religious institution.” 20 U.S.C. § 7221i(2)(E).

In the wake of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017), the Secretary requested the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to examine 20 U.S.C. § 7221i(2)(E) for its constitutionality. In Trinity Lutheran, the Supreme Court held that “the Free Exercise Clause protects against indirect coercion or penalties on the free exercise of religion, not just outright prohibitions.” OLC opined that 20 U.S.C. § 7221i(2)(E)’s prohibition against charter schools affiliating with a “sectarian school or religious institution” is unconstitutional pursuant to Trinity Lutheran, explaining that “forbidding charter schools under the program from affiliating with religious organizations discriminates on the basis of religious status.” During the October Kentucky event, the Secretary also cited the recent Supreme Court decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, where Chief Justice Roberts stated in the majority opinion that “we have repeatedly held that the Establishment Clause is not offended when religious observers and organizations benefit from neutral government programs.”

It is one thing for the CSP to require the curriculum of a charter school to be nonsectarian. It is something else entirely to discriminate against an institution that wants to establish a charter school using CSP funds simply because of its religious status. The Federal Constitution does not permit such a violation of religious freedom, and charter schools may affiliate with churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious institutions that wish to set up and operate charter schools under the CSP. As the Secretary highlighted in her remarks, “according to a recent RealClear survey, three out of four families with children in public schools want their education dollars to follow their children to wherever they go to learn.” For America’s students and their families, removing unconstitutional barriers is a step in the right direction.

By: Jacqueline Gonzalez, Director of Outreach

 

Administration warns of China’s Influence in American schools

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Department of State Secretary Mike Pompeo sent joint letters to both the chief state school officers and the presidents of American institutions of higher education (and their affiliates) on October 9, 2020 warning of the dangers to academic freedom posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHE’s).

The PRC abuses human rights on a massive scale. As Secretary DeVos said in her statement marking the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for the mass abortion of millions of baby girls since 1995 and have mandated forced abortion, sterilization, and birth control on the Muslim Uyghur populations. In addition, it has orchestrated a brutal crackdown on protestors in Hong Kong and oppressed ethnic minorities throughout China.

In the United States, the PRC is supporting hundreds of K-12 “Confucius Classrooms” for propaganda activities. While the program is billed as a way to learn Chinese language and culture, its teachers are often “vetted” and “paid” by the Communist Party itself. Unsurprisingly, students have reported that teachers ignore subjects that might paint the PRC in a negative light. Furthermore, the PRC has hosted U.S. school administrators in Beijing, and there is evidence that teachers must agree to follow Chinese law while teaching in Confucius Classrooms in the U.S.

The situation in higher education is also very serious. The Chinese Communist Party is deeply entangled with U.S. based colleges and universities. Chinese students report being subjected to surveillance and intimidation. IHEs have failed to report foreign money under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, leaving the Department and the public in the dark about more than $6.5 billion in funds from China and other sources. The Department of Education held an event on October 20, 2020, where a new report was unveiled detailing this massive failure, and featuring a speech (minute 10:00) by a student who suffered Communist imprisonment and “reeducation” while her school, the University of Washington, stayed silent.

As the Secretaries said, “While Americans may differ on many issues, threats to our freedoms unite us all. We look forward to working together to uphold our values and advance the goal of education excellence for the next generation of Americans.”

By Nick Bell, Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives

It Feels So Good to Be in School

My high school biology classroom looks quite different from last year on this warm September day. My students are seated six feet apart, we are wearing masks, the windows are open, and everyone has their own set of supplies. Even though I am an experienced teacher, I feel a little awkward as we begin our day. My students’ facial expressions are a mystery. I have to ask a student to repeat his question because his voice is a little muffled. I see a look of uncertainty as a student realizes that she has forgotten her supplies. I assure her that she can borrow some from me. We will sanitize them before and after she uses them. It is a challenging situation for students, parents, and educators as we return to school safely. We will keep getting better at this. When I ask students to share one fun thing they did over the weekend, the room erupts with stories of visiting the beach, seeing family, pet projects, and special moments. I see my students smiling under their masks. It feels so good to be in school.

As I introduce today’s class challenge — to build a prototype of a seed that can be dispersed by the wind — I deliver the materials to each student and students open the Google Slides from their laptops so that they can record and share their data. Although students are socially distanced, I am able to assign them to groups, albeit a little farther away than usual. I ask students to brainstorm and then design their own prototype to ensure that all students are engaged. As they build their prototypes, test them, and make improvements, I disinfect supplies and answer questions. I notice that students are completely absorbed in improving the ability of their seed to stay aloft. The room is alive with energy and purpose. It feels so good to be in school.

Students and teachers alike thrive in an environment of interaction, whether it is discussing an issue, solving a problem together, or working on a project collaboratively. To accommodate social distancing as well as my students working remotely, I have replaced my lectures with shorter screencasts that all of my students can view either at school or at home. I have swapped out my white board with an online bulletin board (Padlet) where students share their ideas or lab data. My students at home can connect with my in-school students during class time while performing a lab using Zoom or Google Meet. Yes, school is very different this year and can be little awkward or uncomfortable at times. Some students need to work independently from home, some are hybrid, and some are in the school building every day. As unique as our individual experiences may be, we are united in the common goal of education. We will keep getting better at this. It feels so good to be in school.

Lori Christerson, Ph. D.

Science Teacher

Bishop Brady High School

Concord, NH

Cross-posted from the Homeroom Blog.

The Department is helping Americans understand the importance of foreign money to American colleges and universities

The pursuit of scientific and technological innovation by American higher education has created economic growth, an improved quality of life, and enhanced security.  Unfortunately, in recent years, certain foreign actors have taken steps to influence American colleges and universities in ways that do not benefit the United States by making to schools large and substantial gifts and contributions.

To prevent undue influence from hostile foreign actors, Congress has directed American colleges and universities to comply with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which requires institutions to report to the Department of Education any gifts and contracts from foreign sources exceeding $250,000 in a calendar year.  Unfortunately, recent investigations by the Department demonstrate that many institutions have failed to comply with this easily understandable statutory requirement, and the Department is taking measures to require schools to comply in the face of possible enforcement action by the Attorney General of the United States.

Preliminary investigations by the Department have discovered that at least six prominent universities have failed to report in excess of $1.3 billion from foreign sources, including from China, Qatar, and Russia.  Those same investigations have revealed other disturbing connections between China and American universities.  One university received research funding from a Chinese multinational conglomerate to develop new algorithms for crowd surveillance.  Another school had multiple contracts with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of China.  Five of the six investigated universities had multiple contracts with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company with a history of hostility to the U.S.

The Department has other cases pending, including an investigation into the University of Texas for its failure to report qualifying contracts, faculty exchanges, and other valuable transfers of technology with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the maximum biocontainment laboratory in Wuhan, China.

Since July of 2019, universities have revealed more than $6.5 billion in previously undisclosed foreign source gifts and contracts.  Institutions have anonymized the identities of the donors of at least $1.14 billion in funds from China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia.

To combat underreporting and to ease reporting burdens for schools, Secretary DeVos has directed the Department to create a modern and robust information collections system to capture contributions to schools by foreign sources, and the Department recently announced a new reporting portal for universities.  Institutions must file any Section 117 reports using this portal on or before July 31, 2020.

American’s universities have a legal and moral duty to provide transparency regarding foreign sources of influence.  The Department’s Section 117 investigations have shown the importance of foreign money to American institutions of higher education so that Americans may understand these transactions and decide whether this activity is in the best interest of the United States.

By Nick Bell, Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives

Multiple Pathways to Success: Supporting Foster and Homeless Students

On Thursday, June 28th, the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (CFOI) and Federal Student Aid (FSA) co-hosted a webinar for faith and community leaders, as well as other caring adults, to provide information on assisting foster and homeless students with filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Faith and community leaders are in direct contact with many foster and homeless students, and this webinar was the first in a series to provide them with resources to help their communities. Fred Stennis, the Outreach Team Coordinator at FSA, and Dr. Andrea Ramirez, the Acting Director of CFOI, discussed the process for students applying for federal student aid, how faith and community leaders can help guide students through this process and dispelled some of the myths about the FAFSA and FSA.

The purpose of this webinar was to help foster and homeless students who wish to pursue higher education. Dr. Ramirez introduced the topic with information regarding the nation’s foster and homeless student population. She then shared the U.S. Department of Education’s goal of providing students with multiple pathways to success; higher education is one such pathway. Fred Stennis then gave attendees information on resources that FSA provides to students, including directions for filling out FAFSA.

FSA gives out $120 billion to more than 13 million students every year, through grants, loans, and work-study programs. Foster and homeless youth face unique challenges when pursuing higher education, but this webinar explained how they are treated equally when filling out the FAFSA. Caring adults who wish to help foster and homeless students should encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

Some key takeaways from this webinar were:

  • All U.S. citizens are eligible to apply for Federal Student Aid, including foster and homeless students.
  • FAFSA opens on October 1st.Check for deadlines from FSA, state agencies, colleges, and other financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
  • Complete the FAFSA with information as of the date of submission. (Applicants do not need to update the application after submission, but can re-submit the form if necessary.)
  • Applicants do not need to provide a home address to fill out the FAFSA. Applicants will be required to provide an address where they can reliably receive mail. This can be the address of any caring adult in their life.
  • Applicants should include up to 10 schools on the FAFSA to compare their aid options from schools they’re considering.

For more information on this webinar, emailEdPartners@ed.gov for a copy of the presentation.

For more information on FAFSA and other FSA resources, FSA holds monthly webinars, has tutorial videos on their YouTube channel and will answer questions via email or web chat on their website, studentaid.gov, or by phone at 1-800-4FED-AID.

CFOI will be hosting another webinar on August 23rd, 2018, from 1-2:00pm (ET), with guest speakers from FSA and the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), to provide faith and community leaders with resources to aid citizens returning from the prison system as they navigate FAFSA and career, technical and apprenticeship opportunities. Registration will be available soon. To be notified when registration is available, and to learn more about our work at the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, email EdPartners@ed.gov and request to receive our center’s highlights.

 

Innovative Learning in the Heart of Ohio

Photo of McVey Learning Center

The four networks listed right as students walk into the school.

“The ILC has provided students authentic learning opportunities by providing a space for exploring their interests and passions.  The real key to success has been the amount of responsibility and ownership students are taking over their learning, showing that students will push their own limits when given the challenge of freedom to choose.  Working with students to personalize their education prepares them to be Ready for Tomorrow.”–Brent Wise, Director of Innovation

Walking in the McVey Innovative Learning Center (ILC), nestled in the Hilliard City School District of Ohio, we encountered students working independently in various work spaces. Their teacher walked around the building checking in on students and answering their questions. We immediately sensed an energy and interest in each student as they worked!

The ILC is diversifying opportunities to meet students’ needs through four networks: College Jump Start, Imagination, Personal Success, and Young Professionals. These networks offer courses that allow all students from grades 7-12 to come together in a centralized location and share an experience that may not be possible in their home schools. The networks are created through commitment from school leadership, local organizations, and partnerships with institutions of higher education. Students from all three of the district’s high schools and middle schools are shuttled to and from the ILC every 90 minutes to participate in classes in one of the four networks. The networks include:

  • College Jump Start: The College Jump Start Network is a partnership between Hilliard City Schools and Columbus State Community College. Students receive 32 hours of college credit during their high school years and an estimated savings of $13,000. This particular network is designed for the student who wants to experience higher education during their high school career.
  • Imagination: This network is designed for the student who wants to creatively explore learning through the lens of the humanities and discover unique ways to engage their imagination. The individualized experience offered by this network features advanced levels of the arts, language, and other forms of expression. During our visit, we toured the recording studio offered through Capital University, a local institution of higher education, and saw a green room in the studio where students practice media development.
  • Personal Success: This network is geared toward the student who wants to experience school in a very personalized way. Students trade the traditional bricks and mortar classroom for an online experience, small group learning, or one-to-one learning sessions. Additionally, they benefit from a personal learning plan that’s created for them, no matter the goal. While we were there, Superintendent John Marschhausen spoke about how the district never expels a student without offering the opportunity for students to continue their coursework through this network.
  • Young Professionals: This network is designed for the student who wants to experience school through authentic learning experiences outside the classroom, all while becoming a young professional. Whether a student is active in a career mentorship role or teacher or entrepreneur academies, this network is built for them. The Young Professionals network has a partnership with the local career/technical school in the fields of medical, business, and teacher academies. Additionally, the school district has written open curriculum and textbooks for iPads, allowing for constant updates as the world changes.

For more information, visit the Hilliard City School website: http://www.hilliardschools.org/ilc/

They All Have My Last Name

“These children have my last name. If there is something my daughters should have—all children should have it.”-Co-founder and Board President of the Hilltop Preschool

While on a visit to Columbus, Ohio, Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell stopped in the Hilltop Preschool, a non-profit organization located in Hilltop Lutheran Church that offers free preschool to residents of the Columbus west side area. It just happened to be picture day, and the children were dressing up in little graduation caps and gowns in anticipation of their upcoming graduation!

The preschool is funded through non-profit donations and thrives on several partnerships, including one with The Ohio State University (OSU) Speech-Language Clinic. This is a successful example of how institutions of higher education can effectively partner with local schools to create positive change.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell reads with young students.

All of the children attending the school come from families who are below 125% of the poverty level and face daunting realities:

  • 61% of the children have been identified with developmental delays;
  • 40% live with a parent with a known substance abuse problem;
  • 27% have a parent who has been incarcerated;
  • 20% are learning English as a second language.

In October of 2014, 67% of the children were assessed as falling “below average” on the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ GET READY TO READ! screening tool. Something had to be done to address such stark realities.

Staff at the Hilltop Preschool began to communicate with the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic at the Ohio State University to develop a unique partnership aimed at raising students’ literacy-based skills in the classroom through workshops with students, teachers, and staff. For the Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, this collaboration presented an opportunity for staff to go into the community and set the bar high as the first clinic to be on-site leading a pre-K early literacy intervention program. For the Hilltop Preschool students, the new partnership paved the way for them to participate in lessons specifically designed to strengthen their early foundations in language and literacy by building skills in four key areas: vocabulary, narrative, phonological awareness, and print knowledge. Lesson plans for the intervention sessions had students gathered in reading groups and focused on topics ranging from the blending of sounds and rhyming, to comprehension, sequencing, and vocabulary. As a result of this initiative, OSU affiliates tripled student contact hours.

At the conclusion of the 11-week intervention program, the preschoolers were assessed to determine if their earlier literacy scores had changed. 89% of the students demonstrated higher literacy scores and 67% achieved “average” or “above average” on the GET READY TO READ! screening tool! Not only did the students see positive differences, but the teachers also learned modeling techniques for literacy concepts and the parents benefited by gaining skills to support their young readers through family events, take-home sheets, and parent-teacher conferences. Invigorated by this success and the community need, OSU continues this partnership today and the Speech-Language-Hearing-Clinic is now building a library at the school to continue to advance literacy skills.

Further background information and source: http://artsandsciences.osu.edu/news/literacy-intervention-and-hilltop-preschool 

Creating Faith-Based Partnerships that Work: White House and COGIC Partner to Help Faith and Community Organizations Build Their Capacity

COGIC Blog - Photo 1As part of the 108th Holy Convocation of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships partnered with COGIC Urban Initiatives to present a panel discussion on opportunities for partnerships between faith-based and community organization and Federal agencies.  Entitled “Faith-Based Partnerships that Work,” the discussion highlighted the unique role of the Federal Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP). Located inside many Federal agencies, these Centers serve as a resource for secular and faith-based non-profit organizations seeking to partner with Federal agencies to address the needs of their local communities.

Led by the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education (ED CFBNP), the COGIC workshop included staff representing several Partnership Centers along with pastors and staff from COGIC-affiliated organizations and other community-based organizations that had partnered with Centers in the past. These representatives described their experiences partnering across issue areas, including education, housing, health and human services, and veterans issues, among others.  For example, Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent Educational Operations for the Ferguson-Florissant School District, commented on how a partnership with the ED CFBNP has resulted in the 1) increased collaboration between the School District and community partners and 2) the strengthening of various programs that benefit the School District’s students.  Paula Hearn, Executive Vice President of COGIC Urban Initiatives, discussed how COGIC’s Partnerships with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships strengthened their ability to reach hundreds of students throughout the nation with the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.

After this broader discussion, participants received practical training from staff of the HUD Center on building the capacity of local non-profit organizations to more effectively carry out their mission. This workshop was excerpted from the HUD Center’s Signature “Capacity Building and Grant-Writing Training.” In the training, participants received personal instruction from HUD CFBNP staff on how to secure 501(c) (3) status, strategic planning, creating the organizational structure necessary to secure government funds, and how to become more competitive for Federal grants. Participants also received valuable lessons on best practices in partnering with Federal agencies Attendees felt that the lessons on past partnerships from Federal staff and community partners, combined with the practically-oriented capacity-building workshop, provided new tools and strategies for organizations to pursue their mission.

Organizations interested in partnering with relevant Federal agencies can find complete contact information for all Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the White House website here. Faith and community organization seeking to learn more about the “Capacity-Building Training for Emerging Organizations,” or other partnership or training opportunities, can contact the Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at (202) 401-1876 or edpartners@ed.gov. Centers stand ready to partner with faith-based and community organizations as they pursue their vital mission serving communities nationwide.

By Paula Lincoln, Director of the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Joshua Bancroft, Program Specialist for the HUD Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

In Ferguson, Missouri, The Community and Schools are Working Together

Ferguson Blog - Photo 1

On a recent trip to Ferguson, MO, my office colleague, Dr. Ken Bedell, and I had the opportunity to visit with community leaders. The trip supported Secretary Duncan’s promise that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) would not forget this community.  Our recent visits to the city have strengthened relationships and created partnerships that are already making an impact in Ferguson schools.  When the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD) requested assistance regarding its Summer STEM Program, we connected them with Hope Worldwide, an international charity dedicated to delivering sustainable, high-impact, community-based services to distressed communities.  Hope Worldwide helped supply FFSD with robotics kits to replicate the District’s STEM efforts and provide equitable learning to its students.  Additionally, our collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, FFSD, and local community-based organizations for the Summer Meals Program increased the number of students receiving meals.

We also hosted a meeting of community leaders committed to making Ferguson a safe and healthy environment for youth and their families.  It was excFerguson Blog - Photo 2iting to hear about the local efforts of these organizations.  Church groups are supporting the development of small businesses in Ferguson. Ernst and Young has initiated a mentorship program. The Urban League has created an Empowerment Center in Ferguson to better serve the surrounding neighborhoods in North St. Louis County.  Pen or Pencil, a National Alliance on Faith and Justice (NAFJ) service learning program, is mentoring and working to reduce dropouts and prevent crimes. Other federal agencies are providing services to the school, including AmeriCorps Vista, which has placed volunteers within schools, and the National Parks Service, which is working to increase the educational opportunities and capacities of students.

Dr. Joseph Davis, the new Superintendent of FFSD, and Dr. Gwendolyn Diggs, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations, shared the FFSD’s vision: to 1) create an elite K-16 S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) school, 2) enhance professional development and educational opportunities for teachers, 3) train parents to become educational professionals in their own households, and 4) strengthen family and community engagement to establish a culture where education is understood as a shared responsibility by all community members.

Our perspectives from Ferguson echo the remarks of Secretary Duncan following his visit to the city:

Education is—and must continue to be—the great equalizer that overcomes differences in background, culture, and privilege. Educational opportunity represents a chance at a better life, and no child should be denied that chance. Where our children lack that opportunity—it’s not just heartbreaking, it is educational malpractice, it is morally bankrupt, and it is self-destructive to our nation’s future. I don’t believe that we are going to solve the challenges in Ferguson and places like it from Washington alone; but, we can be part of the solution if we listen closely to the people living in these communities. Making things better for kids, their families, and their schools will take all of us working together. We can—and we must—get to a better place.

As we continue to listen and work with FFSD, we can ensure that every student has the chance to achieve his or her hopes and dreams.