In the federal policy landscape each year, there are important opportunities to develop more innovative, effective, and equitable solutions to the pressing challenges facing communities across the country. It is critical that lawmakers, leaders, and officials work together every day to capitalize on these opportunities.
Regularly, the team at America Forward works together with our Coalition members to compile a series of comprehensive, issue-specific policy platforms to highlight key policy solutions. The platforms provide clear recommendations for federal policymakers – focused on advancing equity and rewarding effectiveness, supporting innovation and evidence, and centering communities and proximate leaders.
Earlier this year, we launched our updated policy platforms, focused on:
- Early Learning
- K-12 Education
- Higher Education
- Economic Mobility
- Social Innovation to Advance Equitable Outcomes
These platforms reflect the impactful work that America Forward Coalition organizations are leading in communities across the country. Our platforms are designed intentionally with the needs of the most impacted communities in mind. To ensure that everyone in America has the best chance to thrive, federal policies must reflect the best data, support scalability and flexibility, and center community. The priorities laid out in our platforms are actionable, evidence-based steps federal policymakers can take to help bridge existing gaps in policy. Below, find top-line descriptions of each of our policy platforms, as well as a link to the platforms themselves.
Early learning policies must focus on whole-learner approaches that support the range of skills necessary for healthy development, from birth through the age of five, and provide every child with the foundation for success. It is important that policies emphasize high quality, culturally and linguistically diverse, holistic approaches to learning that build critical cognitive and social-emotional skills. Federal funding should support evidence-based programs with clear, measurable goals and outcomes, and direct investment in research and evaluation to better understand the impact of innovative approaches. Federal policymakers should focus on equity, and advance policies that remove barriers for children and families in historically under-resourced communities.
We know, too, that early childhood educators require the same level of training and support as K-12 teachers, yet resources for early educators lag far behind. It is critical that federal policymakers prioritize investments in well-trained, supported, and diverse early childhood professionals. In addition, support for family engagement and the development of strong partnerships with community-based organizations – to build capacity and expertise – are critical to supporting healthy, holistic learning for young children.
It is critical that federal policies support a strong, equitable, and accessible K-12 education system, both to provide individual students with the breadth of skills they need to thrive, and to ensure the long-term health of families, educators, and communities. K-12 policies should embrace innovation, leverage science and evidence, meaningfully advance equity, and prepare students to participate fully in our democracy and the globally competitive workforce of tomorrow. It is essential that federal policymakers invest in key education infrastructure, including high quality professional learning opportunities, instructional materials, and digital connectivity. Policies should be directly focused on achieving equity for students most impacted by barriers to learning – including ending the school-to-prison pipeline and supporting a pathway to permanent legal status for students covered by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Investments in high quality partnerships – such as national service members working alongside teachers and families – can help provide capacity for whole-learner educational approaches, including the creation of positive developmental relationships, building safe learning environments, and supporting students’ transitions as they grow. Creating the foundations for learning also means investing in a strong, supported, and diverse education workforce. Nationwide, the teacher corps faces a lack of diversity, particularly teachers who are Black and Latino/a/x, as well as shortages in specific subject areas like STEM and special education – clearly highlighting the need for investments in educator recruitment, support, and advancement.
Right now, there are a number of persistent barriers to opportunity in our higher education system. Higher education should be a pathway to economic mobility for all students – whether they’ve enrolled immediately after high school or are among the growing cohort of students coming back to college later in life. There are many policy choices that can help make this vision a reality. Legislators should prioritize supportive pathways – to improve both access and completion – by embracing innovation, promoting competency, and reasserting a focus on outcomes that reflect the needs of the full spectrum of today’s students. This includes data accessibility that provides actionable information for students and families on postsecondary outcomes, expanded financial aid, and efforts to develop and scale-up innovations that increase access, persistence, and completion in postsecondary education.
Further, it is essential that institutions of higher education reflect the diversity of today’s students and the opportunities students are seeking out post-college by expanding certification options that map skills and experiences with job placement, while also increasing access to experiences that directly link classroom learning with careers. Federal policymakers should encourage IHEs to provide hands-on learning experiences and employment preparation, as well as create support for high-quality partnerships with nonprofit organizations, community organizations, and businesses.
Improving economic mobility for everyone is essential to strengthening families, communities, and our nation. Providing new, innovative pathways into the workforce and reimagining outdated workforce development systems is critical to enabling people to thrive and building a stronger, more equitable economy. It is imperative that federal policymakers prioritize innovative solutions that bridge the gap between the needs of our economy and the opportunities available to people today; this includes investment in research and data infrastructure that will allow tracking of current gaps and measure the impact of solutions.
Policymakers have the opportunity to expand direct support to an array of proven economic mobility approaches and programs, and substantially increase support for our under-resourced workforce system. Specific legislation, like the bipartisan Expanding Pathways to Employment Act and the Workforce Development Innovation Fund (WDIF), will advance the development and scaling of evidence-based strategies in workforce and postsecondary programs. Investing in communities and scaling what works while centering equity and outcomes will accelerate and expand economic mobility and uplift communities across the country.
Federal legislation should always be designed to uplift innovative, effective, and equitable strategies that focus on outcomes that address persistent racial and socio-economic disparities. Policymakers should increase support for results-focused, evidence-based activities and encourage innovative uses of government funding. To develop and scale high-quality practices, social innovation organizations require sustained investment that is well-coordinated across funding sources.
There’s also an essential opportunity for proximate leaders and social entrepreneurs to be deeply engaged in the policymaking process. Their expertise and on-the-ground experience can help guide the development of funding structures that allow for scaling and continuous improvement, as well as focus on proven programs.
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