By Jacque Patterson, At-Large Representative
With the establishment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) becoming law in 2015, the word “equity” became the focal point in public education. But long before equity was written into law, it had been the foremost issue for me as a parent raising children in Ward 8. Like every parent in the District, I had to make a life-changing decision on where I would send my kids to school. In the midst of that decision, I experienced firsthand the inequity in our public school system.
The systemic and structural inequities inherent in the District of Columbia’s public school system are what drove me to run for the at-large position on the State Board of Education. Over the last three decades, city leaders have tried to deal with educational inequities in various ways, such as the adoption of charter schools, the MySchoolDC lottery, and mayoral control without much progress in closing the achievement and opportunity gap for Black and Brown children.
While the pandemic has ravished our country, it also has exposed educational inequities in urgent and undeniable ways that present State Board of Education representatives an opportunity to reimagine what public education should and can be if we redesign our public education ecosystem with equity at the center of policy and practice.
As the new at-large representative, I’m focused on the quality of a student’s education in every zip code of our great city. I’m encouraged by the community conversations I’ve had with residents that want to work on making D.C. public education better. And that’s where I believe we start, in our communities.
There is a saying that drives how I approach my position on the State Board of Education: “Those closest to the problems are closest to the solutions.” Representatives on the State Board of Education have an obligation to elevate the voices of students, parents, teachers, and education advocates in the public forum of public education policymaking. The only way we ensure every student succeeds is to ensure every student gets what they need. That’s my definition of equity. And I look forward to working with residents to make sure that happens.