Congress’s Newest International Basic Education Caucus

Last week, Representative Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) officially launched the newest caucus in Congress: the bipartisan International Basic Education Caucus.

These two members came together across party lines to encourage a commitment from both Republicans and Democrats in support of basic-quality education around the world. The caucus, officially launched on June 24, 2015, is encouraged and supported by several partner organizations, including the Global Campaign for Education (GCE-US), RESULTS and the Basic Education Coalition. It aims to promote understanding in the 114th Congress of the many global issues associated with inadequate primary education in developing countries — including increasing economic and security issues in the United States. The caucus is intended to encourage its members — and Congress at large — to think of universal education not just as an altruistic good, but as a critical strategic advantage for the United States.

With over 121 million children and adolescents out of school around the world, U.S. funding for international education in developing nations has become increasingly important. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in these nations. The caucus will not only promote understanding of the types of challenges that arise from a lack of quality, universal education, but will also encourage bipartisan legislation to address these challenges.

One such piece of legislation is the Education For All Act, which has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress, most recently in 2013 by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Congressman Reichert (R-WA). The bill, which had 76 cosponsors in the House and the Senate, was intended to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, to include further assistance for developing nations in order to promote universal primary education around the world. It simultaneously strengthened the U.S.’s commitment to global education and supported the means by which developing societies could become sustainable and independent. Though the bill did not pass when introduced, it is possible that the new caucus will bring about increased support for similar pieces of legislation in coming sessions.

While there are numerous congressional caucuses that do very little, there appears to be a reason to be optimistic when considering the future of the International Basic Education Caucus. The caucus will take part in numerous activities, including sponsored briefs on basic education issues, congressional receptions in coordination with partner organizations and letters to the presidential administration and to various world leaders. Such activities are intended to help increase support in Congress for basic international education programs, improve understanding of the seriousness of global education issues among world leaders and establish the means with which to respond to attacks on education, such as recent attacks on schools by Boko Haram in Nigeria or by the Taliban in Pakistan.

Representative Reichert commented upon the caucus’s launch, saying, “If we are going to spread freedom, promote economic growth, enhance stability and security and alleviate poverty around the world, the best way to do that is by first ensuring every young child […] has access to basic education.”

An innovative and historic effort, the bipartisan International Basic Education Caucus has the potential to make a real impact in developing nations and the world at large.

Melissa Pavlik

Sources: Basic Education Coalition, Congressman Mike Quigley, National Education Association
Photo: Flickr