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Coalition Seeks Federal Support for 'Comprehensive' Education

Amid concern that funding to promote academic disciplines beyond reading, mathematics, and science is getting squeezed out of the federal budget, more than two dozen education organizations are banding together in a new coalition to more effectively make their case to policymakers.

Members of the new College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness Coalition represent subjects including arts education, social studies, history, foreign languages, P.E., and health education.

A press release notes that Congress has recently made "deep cuts" in some program areas, including "completely eliminating funding for history, civics, geography, and economics programs." In addition, President Obama has repeatedly sought to consolidate federal programs targeting various disciplines into one competitive-grant program, in which activities previously funded individually would have to compete across disciplines for money.

"These actions threaten schools' and districts' ability to provide all students with an education that truly prepares them for college, careers, and active citizenship," said David Griffith, the director of public policy at ASCD, an education organization based in Alexandria, Va., that is spearheading the new coalition. "In addition, they seem at odds with the new national imperative to fully prepare students for the 21st century."

As we reported in January, the final budget for fiscal 2012 did indeed eliminate funding for a number of programs, including Teaching American History grants, Foreign Language Assistance, Excellence in Economic Education, and civics education. We've also reported repeatedly on Obama's efforts to wrap a range of subject-specific grant programs into a competitive Effective Teaching and Learning: Well-Rounded Education fund.

The new coalition aims to "advance the concept that a comprehensive education in all core academic subjects, including physical education and health education, is necessary to prepare graduates for colleges and careers," the press release says.

It is distributing consensus recommendations to Congress that call for:

• Including "all elements of a comprehensive education" in any definition of college, career, and citizenship readiness;
• Maintaining "discrete and significant funding" for these disciplines;
• Promoting grant competitions within disciplines, rather than between them;
• Developing a rigorous evaluation process that includes significant input from professional educators; and
• Establishing "meaningful public reporting and accountability requirements."

Coalition members include the National Council for the Social Studies, National Association for Music Education, National Dance Education Organization, American School Health Organization, Campaign for Civic Mission of Schools, and Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

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