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Ed. Dept. Creates Commission on School Finance Equity

From guest blogger Christina A. Samuels

Twenty-eight advocates, researchers, corporate leaders, and lawyers have been asked to serve on a commission that will "examine the impact of school finance on educational opportunity," the U.S. Department of Education announced today.

This commission marks the first time the department has created a commission to focus on issues of state and local finance, and one of its first questions will be determining just what the federal role should be in the issue, considering that most education funding comes from state and local dollars, said Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for civil rights. The commission will be housed in the department's civil rights division for administrative purposes, but its charge is not to ferret out funding issues for potential enforcement action, Ali said.

The co-chairmen of the board are Christopher Edley, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, and a co-founder of the Civil Rights Project, and Reed Hastings, an education philanthropist and co-founder of Netflix.

Other education all-stars on the panel include Cynthia Brown, the vice president for education policy for the Center for American Progress; Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools; Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford University; Eric Hanushek, also of Stanford; and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. The full lineup, including the government officials who will be serving as ex-officio members, can be found here.

Ali said the panel was born from discussions with Reps. Mike Honda, D-Calif., and Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., who started talking about forming such a panel in 2009. Both congressmen hailed the creation of the panel, saying it comes at time when districts are being asked to use scarce public resources effectively and fairly.

The commission's first meeting will be Feb. 22 in Washington. The panel also will have public hearings. Two of the hearings have been tentatively scheduled to take place in California and Pennsylvania, and there likely will be others, Ali said. The commission's final report is to be delivered by December.

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