06/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Education Reform's Big Stake

Year after year we approach, celebrate, and then pass by the anniversary of the US Supreme Court landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education, which purported to end decades of educational inequality and downright injustice in America's schools. And, 55 years later, as we approach yet another anniversary, the reality is there are still great inequities in the quality of education delivered, and students of color are still getting the short end of the stick.

America cannot afford to lose one more child to a substandard school. President Obama campaigned that he would drastically improve school quality and put more effective teachers in every classroom. And U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is off to a strong start by demanding greater accountability from schools. But, we can't sit back and wait for leaders to act under their own steam. Parents and students must demand fundamental reform for their schools.

The recent McKinsey & Company report: The economic impact of the Achievement gap in America's Schools provided a multi-layered look at the education and financial (both individual and national) toll of ignoring real education reform:

• On average, black and Latino students are roughly two to three years of learning behind white students of the same age;

• Based on average NAEP reading and math scores across the fourth and eight grades, 48 percent of blacks and 43 percent of Latinos are "below basic", while only 17 percent of white are;

• If just the racial achievement gap had been closed in recent years, GDP in 2008 would have been between $310 billion and $525 billion higher;

• The sum total of the racial, income, geographic and international achievement gap in U.S. education is equivalent to a permanent national recession.

If this level of progress was reported about any other American institution, the shrieks of horror would be heard from coast to coast. Our children's schools are in full meltdown while defenders of the status quo act like they are sitting around a camp fire.

The Education Equality Project (EEP) is declaring May 16 as Education Equality Day. I am a signatory of this group because I believe in what it seeks to be: the unifying voice for a call to action over America's education crisis. The EEP has across-the-political spectrum involvement from the Civil Rights and conservative movements, who joined together for this common cause. Grassroots and grasstops alike share the vision of this new movement.

Marking the 55th anniversary of the Brown decision, EEP is gathering on the White House Ellipse, asking every citizen to demand education reform from our elected leaders for all of America's children. On this day, the final stake in the ground will be driven for education equality. It's time to take the message to the President, our governors, our mayors - and anyone else who stands between our children and the doors to their future success - that meaningful change must come to our schools - now.

We won't wait until next year. Or when it may be politically convenient. There can be no special timing or sacred cows when it comes to making our schools better today. Enough of America's educational heritage has already been lost to such things.

Reforming minority access to quality education will require a commitment of every man, woman and child in America. Join EEP on the White House Ellipse in Washington on May 16 to be counted as a force for change. Visit website, to register and for more information.

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