George Miller part of new early-childhood panel

Former Rep. George Miller is among the high-profile members of a new “Right Start Commission” aimed at helping modernize California’s early-childhood services.

The commission, rolled out Thursday by Common Sense Kids Action, will develop a plan for providing universal, high-quality access to early learning and support systems from birth to age 5. The panel will examine both government’s role in providing such services, and the private sector’s responsibility to ensure a good start for employees’ children; its recommendations will become a legislative blueprint.

“Every child deserves a fair start in life and the only way we can ensure that happens is to provide all kids with the care, support and quality learning experiences they need to be successful from day one,” Common Sense Media CEO Jim Steyer, who’ll also serve on the commission, said in a news release. “We know that improving early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make. Yet, across the nation millions of American kids are denied this critical opportunity year after year. With the Right Start Commission, Common Sense Kids Action will kick off an effort to reimagine early childhood services in California and create a model for the nation to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

The commission’s launch is in conjunction with the Invest In US coalition President Obama unveiled in 2014 to improve the quality of and access to early childhood education for children throughout the country. It will hold a series of statewide and national events over the remainder of the year to collect input from early education and care practitioners, parents, educators and respected researchers.

Besides Steyer and Miller, who just retired after 40 years in the House as a leader on education issues, the commission’s members include Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff; PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell; Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond; Institute for InterGroup Understanding Chair and CEO George Halvorson; Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris; Apple Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson; Heising-Simons Foundation President Elizabeth Simons; and former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

“Early investment in our youngest children is essential to their long-term success as individuals and a bright future for California,” Steinberg said in the news release. “Now, more than ever, we must move kids to the top of our agenda and provide them with the resources they need to compete and succeed in a global economy. The Right Start Commission is a critical first step toward achieving that vision.”


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.