In 2004 there was an idea in Congress that should not seem so outlandish – every child no matter who they are, where they are born, if they are fleeing conflict, or if they are a boy or a girl, should have the chance at an education, and the United States can use its position of influence in the world to help make it happen. This is when the idea for the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act of 2017 was born.
13 Years in the Making
Originally introduced as the Education for All Act during the 108th Congress (13 years ago, this month) the bill aimed to draw attention to global education needs. If passed, the bill would require the President to establish an Education for All task force to develop a unified strategy to promote universal basic education. Developing countries would be held accountable to make credible plans, commitments, and changes so that all children could be protected through education. Developed countries would step up their investments as well, including a developed strategy. After the bill failed to pass originally, it was reintroduced the next session, yet did not receive the attention needed to gain cosponsors and once again did not become law.
Unfortunately, this story became too familiar, repeating itself in the 110th, 111th, 112th, 113th, and the 114th Congress. Meanwhile, though many areas of the world did get more children in school, other areas saw increased conflict and fragility, with children missing out on education and an opportunity for a future. Some regions of the world just weren’t seeing any progress – negative or positive. Fortunately, Senators and Representatives were not blind to the issue and continued to persevere. When one Senator retired, another took up the bill, a House version was introduced, and each session the bill gained more cosponsors. Congress began to work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to put structures in place that would make this bill more successful.
Last session the Education for All Act was reintroduced by Senator Durbin (IL) and Congresswoman Lowey (NY) with a commitment to “make this work.” Thanks to work behind the doors of Congress, and the voices of advocates, like you – who sent nearly one thousand messages over a couple of months voicing support for this bill, the Education for All Act of 2016 passed the House, but then it got held up in the Senate.
Where are we now?
The great need (59 million children are out of school, including a disproportionate amount of girls and refugees), combined with work in Congress, and pressure from advocates have carried this bill close to the finish line – but it is not there yet, and still needs you! Versions of this bill were passed in the House and the Senate as the READ Act, and now the House just needs to approve a final version with Senate amendments before it can become law.
Will education be a priority? Congress has a lot going on, and often issues that affect those whose voices aren’t heard, or the most vulnerable, can go ignored or move to the bottom of the priority list. Not only is the READ Act essential for children around the world, but future bills such as the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education Act rely on the structures that this bill sets up.
Take action below, remind your representative to vote yes on the READ Act and to make sure it comes to the House floor for a vote when Congress returns in September. Back to school should be for all children, no matter who they are.
Photo: 15-year-old Christina Sangma is a sponsored girl who received a bicycle from World Vision. “Education is important. It makes us wise and knowledgeable. School is my source of getting educated. But school is very far from house. It used to take me one hour, one way, to get to school. And after reaching school I was very exhausted from the walking and was unable to concentrate much due to the fatigue. Now I am grateful for my bicycle. All my energy is invested in studying because I get to school quickly. Sponsorship has changed my life and has directed me to the right path, a path leading to progress,” says Christina. © 2017 World Vision/ photo by Annila Harris