ERN Highlights: 2020 in Review

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

December 21, 2020

This year has been trying for so many of us. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has made what we do more necessary than ever before. To illustrate the need for this continued work, we are rounding up some of our top highlights from 2020—helping to increase COVID-19 relief funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from $3 billion to $30.75 billion; leading an agenda for the 117th Congress and incoming Administration co-signed by 15 other civil rights and advocacy groups; and releasing our 100-Day Policy Agendas for the Biden-Harris administration.

We look forward to continuing this crucial work in the next year!


Drove National and State COVID-19 Response

In coalition with other education advocates, we successfully increased education funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act from $3 billion to $30.75 billion.

Our policy team also led on a variety of fronts. On K-12, we analyzed reopening plans, agitated for expanded broadband access, and proposed high dosage tutoring as a way to stem learning loss—among others. Our higher ed team examined how relief funds can increase equity and access on college campuses, and proposed how the federal government could assure quality in online college courses—policies embraced in the pending COVID-19 Phase III relief bill. Our team influenced coverage in a variety of media outlets, including The New York TimesThe HillPOLITICO; and appeared on MSNBC, Bloomberg Radio, NY1 and Good Morning Washington to discuss the pandemic.

Each of our states hosted briefings for senior-level state leadership on CARES Act funding and our state directors were highly influential in guiding their states’ COVID responses. This includes:

  • Colorado’s webinar series on supporting schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Connecticut’s recommendations for an effective education recovery plan post-COVID-19.
  • D.C. Deputy Director Jess Giles’ testimony on the need for behavioral health supports for families and students.
  • Louisiana State Director Leslie Leavoy’s multiple quotes in The Advocate to discuss COVID-19 and distance learning.
  • Massachusetts’ continued advocacy on implementation of the state’s major school finance bill.
  • Washington State Director Shirline Wilson’s information session for 17 statewide advocacy groups on the CARES Act, sharing recommendations on what reform advocates should be thinking about regarding accountability, outcomes, and progress in closing achievement gaps during the pandemic.

Released 100-Day Policy Recommendations

Earlier this month, ERN released its 100 Day policy recommendations for the Biden-Harris Administration with equity-driven policy proposals for K-12 and higher education. In addition to President-elect Biden’s commitment to unprecedented levels of educational funding, both sets of recommendations propose innovative policies directed toward improving outcomes for the nation’s historically underserved students.

Grew Leaders of Color Program

We successfully expanded our Leaders of Color (LOC) program to New York City and New Orleans, graduating our first inaugural classes in each city, as well as our third LOC cohort in Memphis—bringing the number of program alumni to 81. This includes former U.S. Senate candidate Marquita Bradshaw; Sheleah Harris, the first African American woman to hold her seat on the Memphis school board; and four other LOC fellows currently holding newly elected positions. Additionally, two LOC alumni have been named to their town’s 40 under 40 list and dozens have taken on new board and leadership positions to advocate for educational equity since their graduation.

Led Broad Coalition on Agenda for Next Congress & Administration

Over the summer, ERN led 15 civil rights and education groups in authoring a joint policy agenda for the 117th Congress and next Administration detailing 10 principled recommendations spanning early childhood through higher education. The groups emphasize how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the long-existing inequities within our public education system and identify specific actions that must be taken to combine an unprecedented increase in federal financial investments with policies that support student learning in and out of the classroom. Policy actions include continuation of statewide, summative annual assessments, the expansion of public school choice, investments in teacher preparation, and institution of higher education accountability for evidence of a meaningful commitment to diversity and socioeconomic mobility.

Pushed Bold Ideas in Reports, Briefs, and Op-ed-Length Blog Posts

ERN released 57 issue briefs and policy blog posts from our national and state teams during the course of 2020—including our analyses of states’ Innovative K-12 Assessment Pilots, reports on barriers to Higher Education opportunity in Ohio and Michigan; and a Social Mobility Impact ranking of colleges and universities. State releases included ERN Connecticut’s report on how to combat the state’s literacy crisis and ERN Massachusetts co-authored a report analyzing school segregation.

Continued to Push for Racial Justice

The fight for educational equity is deeply entwined with the fight for racial justice. As the Black Lives Matter movement gained greater prominence this year, President Shavar Jeffries spoke about how the racism that kills so many innocent Black men and women is the same racism that fuels educational inequity, with appearances on CNN, Bloomberg radio, and The Day with Brent Goff. Shavar also joined Connecticut state Rep. Jason Rojas for a conversation about how systemic racism impacts our education system. At ERN we’ve reaffirmed our commitment to anti-racism and are proud to be rolling out a revamped mission statement and values early next year.