Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy’s Impact on Education

Senator Edward Kennedy changed the face of education as we know it today; starting in 1964 when he made the first speech in favor of civil rights legislation which resulted in the integrated schools we have today.

In 1965 Senator Kennedy introduced and passed legislation for the National Teacher Corp – giving college scholarships to teachers that agreed to teach in impoverished school districts – a program that was available to me when I became a teacher and continues today.

In 1967 the Senator introduced and passed school reforms under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – an act that continues today.

This act included Title 1 funding for teaching reading in low income schools – which funds 70% of all schools in the United States today. This act is now known as the No Child Left Behind Act as it is simply a revision and expansion of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Education Act.

In 1968 Senator Kennedy began championing Bilingual Education – something that is prevalent and increasingly important today.

In 1972 Senator Kennedy was responsible for Title 9 which protected women from discrimination in education and required that funding be made available for girls sports in schools. Something that impact me as a child and later as a coach for girls sports.

In 1975 the Senator was an original cosponsor of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and requires a free and appropriate public education for children with disabilities in every state.

This is personally touching to me as my dad was the principal of the school in Norman that taught ALL children with disabilities and I was then privileged to see children with disabilities integrated into all schools and classes.

I was further blessed to have taught them in a classroom with students that did not have special needs. I’ve written a book on this topic and the issue remains dear to my heart.

These acts have lasted throughout the years since passed – revised in various ways, but always expanded and never decreased. The acts were expanded to include early childhood education and higher education.

His impact on education surpasses the legislation through his shining example of public service which is a virtual requirement for the acceptance of many college applications.

We speak about the many things the Kennedy’s have meant to our country and we almost always think about what would have been if his brothers had lived. Senator Kennedy did live and impacted our lives through health care, civil rights and most importantly to me: education.

Today, reflect upon how your education was impacted by this great man and then think about the opportunities your children have because of him. Use this moment as teachable moment in the many ways you should but please do not forget that he is one of the greatest architects of our current education system.

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