Bay Area people named to education equity panel

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today appointed two Bay Area figures to co-chair a national Equity and Excellence Commission that will examine how school finance impacts educational opportunity and recommend ways to make funding fairer.

Named as co-chairs were University of California, Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Also named to serve on the 28-member panel were Stanford University professors Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Linda Darling-Hammond and Eric Hanushek.

The Department formed the commission in response to a congressional request included in the fiscal year 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, had helped lead the fight for that request.

“All our children should have an equal opportunity to achieve prosperity, not just those at the top,” Honda said in a news release today. “Closing our achievement gap, however, is not just about those at the bottom. It is about making sure that every working and middle class neighborhood has a world-class school. The Equity Commission represents an important opportunity to reframe the issue of education equity and raise its profile in the national debate.”

“We have known for years that equal opportunity is a fallacy in our public schools. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which shows the U.S. lagging badly behind most of the developed world in reading, math and science, highlights how equity/inequity in education correlates directly with global competitiveness or lack thereof,” Honda continued. “As poverty increases in our schools, our scores steadily decrease. This finding should make our goal simple: To make every school as good as the schools in our wealthiest communities.”

The commission will meet for the first time in public session next Tuesday, Feb. 22 in Washington to discuss the scope of its work, outreach efforts, and the timetable for completion of its report.

Edley, Berkeley’s law dean since 2004, cofounded the Civil Rights Project at Harvard, where he taught law for 23 years; and Berkeley’s Chief Justice Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity; he held White House policy positions under Presidents Carter and Clinton, served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and – after having had Barack Obama among his Harvard Law students – advised the current President’s transition team.

Hastings co-founded his DVD-rental-by-mail company in 1997, has been an actiive educational philanthropist and board member of many nonprofits, and served as president of the California State Board of Education from 2000 to 2004; he has led successful statewide political campaigns for more charter public schools and easier passage of local school bonds.

Cuéllar is Professor of Law and Deane F. Johnson Faculty Scholar at Stanford Law School, focusing on administrative law, immigration and citizenship, and international and national security. From early 2009 through last summer, he was on leave from Stanford to serving as Special Assistant to the President for Justice and Regulatory Policy at the White House; President Obama named him last July to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent agency charged with recommending improvements in the efficiency and fairness of federal regulatory programs.

Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She’s a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity.

Hanushek is the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, and has been a leader in the development of economic analysis of educational issues, and his work on efficiency, resource usage, and economic outcomes of schools has frequently entered into the design of both national and international educational policy. His research covers areas such as the impacts of teacher quality, high stakes accountability, and class size reduction on achievement along with the role of cognitive skills in international growth and development.

Other commission members include NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous; Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund President and General Counsel Thomas Saenz; National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel; and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.