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CAA announced on Monday that it will host a 90-minute virtual summit on March 18 focused on public education. Presented by the CAA Foundation and CAA Amplify, the agency’s diversity platform, the event will feature U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona as well as two former education secretaries Arne Duncan and Dr. John B. King (the president and CEO of The Education Trust).
The summit will look at the pressing issues faced by public school students in America after a year that has seen long-term school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic and focus on solutions for what can be done to avoid a lost generation of students. According to an estimate by the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners, up to three million students in the U.S. have not attended school since March of last year.
The event will also spotlight Charles Best, the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose, which funds public-school classroom projects, who will appear in conversation with In The Heights and Hamilton star Anthony Ramos, who has said that his high-school theater director changed his life.
Jennifer Garner, longtime ambassador for the global nonprofit Save The Children, will introduce that organization’s senior vice president of U.S. programs & advocacy, Mark Shriver, and Yolanda Minor, a Save the Children field operator in Mississippi.
Other names who will take part in the program include Edward James Olmos and Yara Shahidi. The latter will be in conversation with two students leaders from the educational equity advocacy organization Student Voice, Maya Green and Jimmy Rodgers.
“This is the first education summit we have done at CAA,” says Deborah Marcus, CAA Foundation executive and the former CEO of the drop-out prevention organization Communities in Schools, Los Angeles (which CAA has long supported).
“We’re in a unique moment where people are paying attention to public education because it’s in the news every day, not so much about the learning loss, but about when kids are going back to school,” continues Marcus. “It really is on top of everybody’s minds. We have a unique opportunity to capture that interest in public education and do something.”
The event will also feature Communities in Schools CEO Rey Saldaña; former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Kaya Henderson, the founder of Reconstruction, a technology company focused on Black education; Chiefs for Change chief operating officer, Dr. Julia Rafal-Baer; philanthropist Elaine Wynn, the national board chair of Communities in School; and Mara Aspinall, professor of practice, biomedical diagnostics at Arizona State University and an advisor to The Rockefeller Foundation.
Marcus underlines that “public education was not serving our kids equitably before COVID; the baseline was low before the pandemic — we have an opportunity to build back more equitably,” she says, adding, “Many students who lack access to connected devices and other educational materials, due to low family income, homelessness, foster care, disability, insufficient English language skills, or other circumstances, are being left behind.”
Among the further inequalities highlighted by the pandemic are lack of access to wifi – which Marcus stresses “should be accessible to all.” She also cites the need for funding for COVID testing in public schools, and vaccines for teachers and staff. “The good news is the Biden administration is budgeting for some of those efforts” says Marcus, including tutoring programs.
Ultimately, says, Marcus, “The summit is a call to action for our audience. What we hope to do is inspire action among our audience to do something now to help kids.”
Registration for the event can be found at amplify.caa.com/live/education, where action steps — that the public can take — will be posted at the conclusion of the summit.
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