Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

Elementary & Secondary Education

be careful what you cut

Cutting education from the budget now will cost all of us later.

Be Careful What You CutLearn more and get involved »

For far too long, millions of children in America have been denied the opportunity to receive a high quality education.  Inequities in funding and resources place poor children in low-performing schools with inadequate facilities and often ineffective teachers.  Practices such as tracking, retention, out-of-school suspensions, and one-size-fits-all zero tolerance policies continue to contribute to the discouragement, disengagement, and eventual dropout of countless children in America.  Instead of serving as “the great equalizer,” American public education has served as a portal to the cradle-to-prison pipeline, leading poor and minority children to lives marked by school dropout, arrest, and incarceration.

CDF's Education Policy Team is committed to improving outcomes for children in school and in life by working to transform American education and set it on the path towards equity and excellence for all children.

School Discipline

In 1975 CDF released a report, School Suspensions: Are they helping children?, which drew national attention for the first time to the problems of exclusionary discipline (suspension and expulsion) and racial disparities in how discipline was being used in schools. The report drew on data reported through the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights as well as surveys conducted with suspended students and their families. The report’s finding, that exclusionary discipline was used excessively and in a discriminatory way, tragically is still the case. Thankfully, the research and advocacy spawned by this original report has added new understanding to the problems and its solutions. CDF is working to ensure we are keeping children in school, where they belong, and are treating them fairly. Discipline should be a way to teach our children, not push them out of school. Every child deserves to be treated fairly and no child should be denied an education because of the color of their skin, a disability, or their challenging circumstances. Learn more about our current work on school discipline reform.

CDF Freedom Schools® Program

Created in 1995, the CDF Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a model curriculum that supports children and families around five essential components: high quality academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, intergenerational leadership development, and nutrition, health and mental health. In partnership with community-based organizations, faith institutions, municipalities, schools, colleges and universities, the CDF Freedom Schools program boosts student motivation to read, generates more positive attitudes towards learning and connects the needs of children and families to the resources of their communities. Learn more about the CDF Freedom Schools program.

Budget Watch

The federal budget is an important moral statement of what we value as a nation and where our priorities lie. This year, the federal budget process is more important than ever. Many states are facing budget shortfalls and the deficit is at a record high. CDF believes investing in our children is the long-term answer to our country’s budget problems. Visit the CDF Budget Watch page, which includes information specific to education funding, to learn more about the federal budget process.

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) presents a much-needed opportunity to reshape federal education policy so that our nation’s schools truly leave no child behind. The Children’s Defense Fund is committed to ensuring that key protections and improvements for our most vulnerable children are incorporated into a reauthorized ESEA. Learn more about CDF’s key priorities for ESEA and check out our other education reform resources here.