Sussanna Compare is an intern with the Children’s Defense Fund for the Spring 2020 semester.
On February 23, 2020, history was made after students and teachers won a $53 million dollar lawsuit against the state of California for failing to teach them how to read. The lawsuit calls on California lawmakers to create a $50 million dollar block grant that will give the state’s 75 lowest-performing elementary schools more resources to help students learn how to read proficiently. The last $3 million dollars in the settlement will be used to create a position within the state government to guide statewide literacy efforts.
The grant will fund tools for schools in need, like before- and after-school programming, bilingual reading specialists, and more. The impact this lawsuit could have on schools in California is enormous, but it shouldn’t have ever come to this.
When first reading this news, I was excited for this win in the area of literacy. But, with more thought, I began to realize how sad it was that literacy was not at the forefront of the state’s education policy to begin with—or the nation’s, for that matter.
More than 67 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in reading in the U.S., and 80 percent of eighth graders from low-income backgrounds will start high school without proficiency in reading or math. These are not only scary numbers, but they show that our nation’s educational system is failing the students who need it most.
A student’s education is essential, and it’s more important than ever that we build a strong foundation for America’s children to become the next generation of leaders and change-makers.
Education can save a person’s life and put them on the path to find success beyond high school or college graduation. Without strong literacy skills, students will inevitably have a harder time even getting into college, getting a job or interacting in day-to-day life. Literacy is one of the most important skills a student should learn, so what’s stopping us as a nation from giving every child the ability to read?
To learn more about the state of education for our nation’s children, visit The State of America’s Children 2020.