Dear Secretary Cardona:
On behalf of the undersigned students, members, and allies of Our Turn, please accept our sincere congratulations on being nominated by President Biden and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as our U.S. Secretary of Education! We wish you all the best as you help lead the nation towards an equitable public education.
Our Turn, comprising over three-hundred Raise Your Hand Student Ambassadors across the country, is a student-led organization mobilizing and amplifying student voices in the fight for educational equity. We, marginalized and first generation college students, have already led campaigns for student-focused change in school systems, ranging from mental health to credit recovery to safety in schools. Today, on Day 100 of President Biden’s administration, we are elevating the authentic voices of 100 students, which you will find attached to this letter.
We urge you to review the Student Agenda for Equity, which was created for students, by students, reflecting our fight for educational equity in communities across the nation. During a moment of monumental change, brought upon by the pandemic, American Rescue Plan, and leadership changes, we are confident that the Student Agenda is an actionable, equity-first blueprint for schools.
There are monumental obstacles that remain to move toward true equity in education, and our growing, nationwide cohort of student leaders and organizers understand they cannot do it alone. That’s why, Mr. Secretary, we are asking for your support and engagement. If we had the support and engagement of the U.S. Secretary of Education, there would still be tremendous challenges, but Students could look forward to a powerful ally as a partner. That’s all that we ask:
Publicly endorse the Student Agenda for Equity with Our Turn;
Authentically elevate student voices by exploring and collaborating with us on our policy recommendations;
Continue to engage Our Turn students as you deliver the following shared priorities:
Funding resources for mental health counselors through local districts.
Address inherent educational inequities as a result of the digital divide.
A national policy recommendation for a culturally responsive and inclusive curriculum.
Mr. Secretary, we know you have a lot on your plate. But so do we. There are too many of us - particularly those students coming from disadvantaged families - who worry about the impact of the pandemic on our long-term mobility and wellness. We worry when and if our schools can open safely, and return to an old normal of inequity. We worry about our parents and family members that have lost their jobs - many jobs that will never come back. We worry about ourselves and our schoolmates who may fall into depression and have suicidal thoughts.
Mr. Secretary, your leadership on our behalf is crucial now - after a year of loss and trauma, how can we expect students to succeed in school if we as national leaders are not doing everything in our power to advance equity for all students. The Department of Education’s mission and vision is to “Promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Now is the time for us as national education leaders to move our values into action.
We owe it to both the past and present generation of leaders to prioritize and develop an inclusive curriculum and heal our nation’s great divide. Thanks for hearing us out, and we look forward to connecting with you soon!
Our Turn and The Raise Your Hand for Educational Justice Community