The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) gave black parents in the D.C. metropolitan region the opportunity to speak candidly about how U.S. education policy affects their children.
The NNPA kicked off its annual convention Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md., with a town hall-style meeting — themed “Striving for Educational Excellence” — that gave parents a soapbox to voice their concerns about Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal education plan.
“We had to replace the No Child Left Behind Act, so now we have the Every Student Succeeds Act,” said NNPA Chair and Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. “D.C. has already submitted its plan. Maryland, I think, is in the process and will submit its plan in September, as well as Virginia.”
Rolark Barnes said that the District had a number of town halls to discuss building the plan, like many other school districts around the country.
“We as parents need to be there and know what ESSA is all about how it will impact our children, particularly African-American and Latino children, because we are the ones that are often the most disenfranchised by every institution,including the educational institutions,” she said.
ESSA replaced the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and will be implemented beginning next school year.
The act takes control from the federal government and gives it back to state and local school district leaders.
In the past year, there have been countless public town halls and meetings to provide transparency to parents and their communities, a requirement of ESSA.
A part of that transparency entails public awareness in getting the message out to parents, especially the underprivileged who could benefit from the act the most.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granted the NNPA $1.5 million to use their platform of over 200 black-owned newspapers throughout the U.S. to spread the word through its print and digital products, programs and technology.
Policy experts, physicians and educators came together on the panel at the town hall along with Benjamin Chavis, NNPA president and CEO, and Elizabeth Primas, NNPA’s ESSA program manager, to answer parents’ most pressing questions.
“We’re here to inform you so you can go out and talk to people in your community and you can inform them,” Rolark Barnes said. “We need to know the new policies and how it’s going to impact our children.
“We’re talking about equity and equality in education, so we need to know what our states plan to propose that will make education equitable for the children,” she said.