Nita Lowey
Representative Nita Lowey has been a key Congressional proponent for prioritizing educational opportunity in foreign aid and development programs. She is an outspoken advocate for women, children and families, championing issues related to education in the United States and abroad.

Currently serving her 15th term in Congress representing New York’s 17th district, Rep. Lowey was the first woman to serve as a Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Nita Lowey, along with Congressmen Dave Reichert, introduced the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act, to enhance transparency and accelerate the impact of U.S. basic education programs around the world. The READ Act passed into law on September 8, 2017.

The READ Act calls for:

  • Engagement with key partner countries and nongovernmental institutions to promote sustainable, quality basic education.
  • A comprehensive, integrated U.S. strategy that improves educational opportunities and addresses key barriers to school attendance, retention and completion for the poorest children worldwide.
  • A senior coordinator within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to oversee the education aspects of foreign aid.
  • An annual report to Congress on the implementation of the basic education strategy and progress achieved by USAID programs.

Worldwide, more than 263 million children and youth are out of school. In addition, 250 million primary school age children are lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills. Studies have shown that for every year a girl stays in school, her future income increases by 15 to 25 percent.

Rep. Nita Lowey strongly believes that prioritizing education around the world will “ultimately protect vulnerable children from poverty, disease, hunger and even extremism.”

On why the READ Act is such an important piece of legislation, Rep. Lowey’s Press Secretary Mike Burns told The Borgen Project:

“Without a doubt, education is the greatest force multiplier in foreign aid. The READ Act will enhance our global education efforts, removing barriers to education for those out of school and improving the quality of education for those already enrolled. Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write—it will ultimately help protect vulnerable communities from hunger and disease and increase economic advancement, particularly for girls and women.

“Simply put, by putting education at the center of our efforts, this bill moves us further down the path to building the world we want for ourselves and for future generations. This is a tremendous bipartisan achievement.”

Rep. Nita Lowey continues to be a leading Congressional proponent of educational opportunity, a leading international role for the United States, health care quality and biomedical research, stricter public safety laws, environmental protection, women’s issues, national security and improved homeland security preparedness.

– Sydney Lacey

Photo: Google

Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development
On Jan. 24, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act (H.R. 601). The bill, which has essentially the same language as the Education for All Act of 2016, provides accountability for existing U.S. efforts to improve quality basic education in developing and war-torn countries.

The Education for All Act (H.R. 4481) passed the House in the 114th Congress on Sept. 7, 2016. It later passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December, but unfortunately, Congress adjourned before it was considered in the full Senate. Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and Dave Reichert (R-WA-8) just introduced the READ Act on Jan. 23, so it shows great momentum that it passed only one day later.

The U.S. foreign assistance strategy has a long history of incorporating education, as most agree that it is a vital part of improving economic stability in developing countries. According to the World Bank, “an increase of one standard deviation in student reading and math scores is associated with an increase of two percentage points in annual gross domestic product (GDP) per capita growth.”

The international community has also widely accepted the importance of education in international development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in September of 2015, and it features 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the goals, SDG 4, is for countries to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

However, according to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics (UIS), for the school year ending in 2014, about 263 million children and youth did not attend school. This included children who were of primary school age (6 to 11 years old), lower secondary school age (12 to 14 years old) and upper secondary school age (15 to 17 years old).

The READ Act, therefore, is an important step in helping to maintain progress in our foreign assistance strategy, as well as contributing to the achievement of SDG 4. It aims to accelerate the impact of assistance provided under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, “an act to promote the foreign policy, security, and general welfare of the United States by assisting peoples of the world in their efforts toward economic development and internal and external security, and for other purposes.”

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA-39) said, in his remarks to the House prior to the vote, “H.R. 601, the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, introduces new guidelines and increases accountability for existing U.S. efforts to improve access to basic education in developing and conflict-torn countries. It requires strategic planning and the prioritization of resources relative to needs on the ground, potential for impact, and alignment with U.S. diplomatic, development and security interests.”

There is strong bipartisan support for the READ Act, and the bill will now go to the Senate for consideration. The Borgen Project commends the House for making this legislation a priority in the new year, as it opens the possibility for millions of children to gain access to the education they all deserve.

– Kristin Westad

Education for All Act

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Education for All Act of 2016 on September 7 — five days after it was initially listed on the House Schedule. This bill, which promotes quality universal basic education, now moves on to the Senate.

In July, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced near-identical companion legislation to the Senate which is currently being considered in the Foreign Relations Committee.

This low-cost, bipartisan bill aims to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, asserting that multilateral education aid to developing countries is essential to protecting U.S. national security interests.

The bill requires that the United States government develop a comprehensive strategy, beginning with the designation of a Senior Coordinator of U.S. Government Actions to provide basic education assistance within USAID. This position will coordinate international resources in order to promote universal access to education.

If the Education for All Act continues its momentum, once signed by the President, the bill has the potential to change the lives of millions of children.

Currently, 59 million primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school. Furthermore, 250 million children who do attend school are unable to read, write, or do basic mathematics. Many drop out before the fourth grade.

Gender discrimination, conflict and extremism continue to limit the educational growth potential for at-risk children.

Guided by coordination, sustainability and aid effectiveness, the Education for All Act will support national education plans in developing countries worldwide, creating specific indicators to measure educational quality.

Additionally, the bill focuses on the equitable expansion of education in marginalized or conflict-affected populations, in an attempt to keep schools safe from violence.

“An education is a fundamental tool with which boys and girls are empowered to increase their economic potential, improve their health outcomes, address cultural biases, participate in their communities and provide for their families”, said Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), the original sponsor of the House bill.

According to the bill text, the legislation would promote and contribute to an overall increase in economic growth for underdeveloped countries, improve democratic institutions of government, encourage empowerment for women and young  girls while “ensuring that schools are not incubators for violent extremism.” As such, focusing on improving access to education across the globe would promote U.S. national security interests.

Congressional Budget Office estimates indicate that the Education for All Act is low-cost initiative, requiring less than $500,000 per year. Enacting the bill would neither increase net direct spending nor budget deficits in the future.

The Borgen Project applauds the House for passing this important legislation and urges readers to call and email their Senators to support the Education for All Act of 2016. Let’s get this bill to the President’s desk and give millions of children access to quality education.

– Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr


Learn about the READ Act.