Trying to work with, not against, President Obama on education

Wednesday, August 4, 2010; A16

Ruth Marcus has misunderstood the position of the civil rights groups that are helping to shape education reform ["Picking the wrong fight with Obama," op-ed, July 30].

We face an unprecedented crisis in education that requires bold measures designed to achieve broad structural changes. Our framework document does not argue in favor of the status quo. Indeed, it offers constructive criticism and a thoughtful analysis of the administration's Blueprint for Reform, along with recommendations on issues ranging from school finance and teacher preparation to parental involvement and school discipline. And we have met with administration officials and congressional leaders in attempts to find common ground on a way forward on progressive education reform.

We believe this administration is on the side of our children and embrace much of the president's education program. But we still believe it can be strengthened and deepened. The administration's proposals for competitive grant programs are not a panacea. We can all agree that efforts such as these cannot reach all children, so we have called for prioritization of bolder programs.

Just as it is with the Obama administration, it is the job of the civil rights community to advocate for the protection of the rights of all Americans, particularly in education.

As civil rights groups whose critical work includes fighting for quality and accessible education for all children, we will continue to be the major change agents that we have always been.

Barbara R. Arnwine, Washington

John Payton, New York

Arnwine is executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Payton is president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

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