Promoting quality education for all.

Congress Leads on Global Education: Will Obama Follow?

July 2, 2010

Source: The Huffington Post

By Joanne Carter

Recent developments in the global movement to provide a quality education to the 72 million kids currently out of school present a study in contrast. While the administration has failed to deliver on President Barack Obama's pledge to create a new Global Fund for Education, Congress is increasingly showing support for the idea.

The recently concluded G8 summit, which has historically been an important platform for mobilizing global commitments to fighting poverty, was stunningly silent on expanding access to education. Despite the efforts of its Canadian hosts, the G8 fell far short of expectations and failed to mobilize significant new pledges even for its signature issue, maternal and child health. In the midst of the G8 summit the Obama Administration released "A New Approach to Advancing Development" outlining the President's views. The statement confirms that "development" -- it doesn't actually mention "poverty" -- is a "moral, strategic, and economic imperative for the United States and our partners." While the document restates a number of common-sense principles of effective foreign aid, there are striking omissions -- education among them.

It is astonishing that the administration could outline its approach to development without even name-checking education, widely understood to be perhaps the best investment we can make in fighting poverty and promoting security. In addition to fulfilling the fundamental right to learn, education contributes to healthier mothers and children, more empowered and less vulnerable women, and more prosperous and peaceful societies. Every additional year of schooling has been found to decrease a boy's chance of engaging in violent conflict by 20 percent. For a girl in a poor country, each additional year of school beyond grades three or four will lead to 20 percent higher wages on average, and educated mothers are 50 percent more likely to immunize their children. Education is so strongly associated with HIV/AIDS prevention that it's known as a "social vaccine." Despite the cross-cutting benefits of a basic education, it has not been prioritized in President Obama's approach to fighting global poverty and inequity.

Global education advocates had reason to expect better. As a candidate, Obama proposed a $2 billion global education fund, and spoke of the integral link between education and security. Secretary Hillary Clinton re-iterated this $2 billion promise in her confirmation hearing, and as a Senator was a leading voice on behalf of global education, especially for girls. Despite these early commitments, concrete proposals have not materialized. In fact, the President's budget proposal included an $85 million cut to global education programs.

While the administration is stuck in neutral, there are encouraging signs of leadership in Congress. On Wednesday the House subcommittee responsible for foreign aid spending passed its annual funding bill. The subcommittee not only reversed the President's proposed cut, but included for the first time funding for a multilateral education effort -- $40 million for a strengthened and transformed Education for All Fast Track Initiative (FTI). The FTI is an initiative which helps poor countries close financing gaps in their national education plans. Over 15 countries contribute to the FTI, but so far the U.S. has not participated as a donor. Funding for a reinvigorated FTI can serve as an initial down payment on a new Global Fund for Education.

Subcommittee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), unmatched in Congress as a leader on global education, has demonstrated her openness to new approaches to accelerate progress. At our current pace there will still be 56 million children out of school in 2015. Rep. Lowey's Education for All Act (HR 5117), introduced with Republican Dave Reichert (WA), provides a blueprint for U.S. leadership to reach universal access to basic education. The bill would make a Global Fund for Education a key element of our basic education strategy. This attention to multilateral cooperation is particularly important in a global economic slump. The U.S. needs a new way to leverage other donor nations to share in the effort, and to provide incentives for developing countries to develop strong national education plans for investment.

With Congress leading on global education, will Obama follow? He will have no better opportunity than the UN Millennium Development Goal Summit in September, where the world will gather to assess progress on eight overarching global anti-poverty goals, and create a plan of action to achieve them by 2015. Last year in his first address to the UN General Assembly, Obama said he would return to MDG Summit with a global plan to make these goals a reality. To fill in the missing plank of his MDG plan on education, Obama should call for the enactment of the Education for All Act, and propose a plan and budget for a $2 billion Global Fund for Education. 72 million kids are awaiting his leadership.

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All the World’s Children Need Education

June 23, 2010

Source: Hartford Courant

By Erin DeRoy

The World Cup, including the ringing of the vuvuzela horns in our ears, is here. And, off the playing fields of South Africa, organizers of the the 2010 FIFA World Cup are trying to use the attention and energy their event has generated to help put children in school. They have joined the 1GOAL initiative, a critical global campaign to make sure all of the world's children get an education.

The idea is to bring together the influence of soccer players and fans, as well as charities and organizations, to call on world leaders to make education a reality for all children by 2015.

A bill before Congress, The Education for All Act of 2010, would add a significant boost to this international campaign. The legislation urges the United States to provide the resources and leadership needed to ensure a successful international effort in providing all children with a basic quality education. I urge my congressman, Rep. John Larson, D-East Hartford — a man who understands the power and potential of education — to co-sponsor this important legislation.

I am an avid volunteer and advocate for children, and I know we all have an impact on educating our world's children. Two summers ago, I traveled to Ecuador and worked in an underprivileged and impoverished community. As a volunteer, I focused on the betterment of children through education — educating some children who had never been to school.

The tremendous effort each child made to attend class was powerful evidence that they valued education and wanted to learn — regardless of the distance to school, exhaustion due to malnutrition or poor school quality. Sadly, children's longing will not always give them the education they dream of receiving. Children need resources, support and, this year, implementation of the Education for All Act to get the assistance they need to pursue their dream of learning.

Globally, there are 72 million children between the ages 5 and 11 who are not in school. These children are faced with a vast array of unfortunate obstacles that inhibit their ability to receive a quality education. Nevertheless, every child needs and deserves an education to see a brighter future for themselves and their families. All villages, communities and countries need educated citizens to ensure a prosperous, healthy and vibrant future.

Education is one of the best ways of helping children grow up safe, healthy and prepared to lift their communities out of poverty. A quality education expands employment opportunities and gives people a chance to earn higher wages. Education, particularly for girls, also leads to better health outcomes for children, adults and families. In addition, education can lower the risk of conflict for a country, which creates a safer world for us all.

In the words of 1GOAL's co-chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "Education is the engine through which development can be powered, both for the individual in opening up new opportunities as well as for countries seeking to move out of the fierce grip of poverty. This year's World Cup in South Africa provides a platform to deliver a lasting legacy that will last for generations."

Erin DeRoy, 21 of Cromwell, is a senior, majoring in international affairs at the George Washington University and is an intern at Global Action for Children in Washington.

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Education: Progress Before Partisanship

May 21, 2010

Source: The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)

By Stacy Carkonen, Sumner, WA

Re: "Education and access needed" (letter, 5-20).

I couldn’t agree more with this letter about global education. The good news is there is a lot happening right now.

While members of Congress dig their heels in on the media-grabbing issues of the day and seemingly refuse to see eye to eye on anything, quietly, behind not-so-closed doors, members of Congress are working together and making progress.

This past month, two Washington state members of Congress did the impossible by not only supporting, but leading on the global Education for All Act of 2010 – Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn) as the lead Republican sponsor and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, as an original co-sponsoring Democrat.

Both of these congressmen understand that the key to the long-term security and economic progress of the U.S. is indeed directly tied to the education level and economic well-being of countries worldwide.

Failed states, refugees from civil conflicts and bad governance all have implications on our many national interests around the world. This is not simply altruism it is pragmatism about the future of our own security and progress here at home. Education is not just the key to a brighter future for our children; it is the key to a brighter future for all children and all countries.

I applaud our congressmen for putting progress ahead of partisanship.

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NYT Op-Ed: Celebrate: Save a Mother

May 8, 2010

Source: New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof

Happy Mother’s Day! And let me be clear: I’m in favor of flowers, lavish brunches, and every other token of gratitude for mothers and other goddesses.

Let me also add that your mom — yes, I’m speaking to you — is particularly deserving. (As is mine, as is my wife. And my mother-in-law!)

And because so many people feel that way, some $14 billion will be spent in the United States for Mother’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That includes $2.9 billion in meals, $2.5 billion in jewelry and $1.9 billion in flowers.

To put that sum in context, it’s enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school. That would pretty much end female illiteracy.

These numbers are fuzzy and uncertain, but it appears that there would be enough money left over for programs to reduce deaths in childbirth by about three-quarters, saving perhaps 260,000 women’s lives a year.

There would probably even be enough remaining to treat tens of thousands of young women suffering from one of the most terrible things that can happen to a person, a childbirth injury called an obstetric fistula. Fistulas leave women incontinent and dribbling wastes, turning them into pariahs — and the injuries are usually fixable with a $450 operation.

So let’s celebrate Mother’s Day with all the flowers and brunches we can muster: no reason to feel guilty about a dollop of hedonism to compensate for 365 days of maternal toil. But let’s also think about moving the apostrophe so that it becomes not just Mother’s Day, honoring a single mother, but Mothers’ Day — an occasion to try to help other mothers around the globe as well.

Oddly, for a culture that celebrates motherhood, we’ve never been particularly interested in maternal health. The United States ranks 41st in the world in maternal mortality, according to an Amnesty International report, or 37th according to a major new study in the medical journal The Lancet, using different data sources.

Using either set of statistics, an American woman is at least twice as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth as a woman in much of Europe.

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