The year 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the Center for Civic Education. Coincidentally, it is the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the major source of federal support for precollegiate education.
In 2002, the ESEA was reauthorized by Congress, which gave it a new name, No Child Left Behind. The ESEA and NCLB have been significant sources of support for the programs of the Center, particularly the We the People Programs for upper elementary through high school students.
From 1967 to 1994, Jack Jennings served as subcommittee staff director and then as a general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor. During that time many of us at the Center and colleagues in our network got to know and appreciate Jack as one of the most knowledgeable, accessible, and ethical supporters of education in the halls of Congress.
Jack is the author of Presidents, Congress, and the Public Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2015). It is a fascinating account of the history of the ESEA and its successor, the NCLB. The ESEA was one of the significant achievements of the Great Society intended to equalize the educational opportunities of poor children and remedy the situation of those handicapped by poverty or by physical or mental disabilities through its Title 1 program and successive initiatives.
Jack provides an even-handed, behind-the-scenes account of the successes and failures of the education reform embodied in the ESEA and NCLB. He concludes his book with an ambitious proposal for establishing education as a civil right, guaranteeing every student an opportunity to learn. His perspective is enlightening, especially for those of us who have been participant observers of educational reform over the past five decades.