Centuries of experience have taught Americans the transformative power of education. More educated nations are less prone to poverty, illness, high unemployment, and crime. As Americans, it is in our national interest to have an educated citizenry. That’s why I believe that our national government has an important role to play in improving access to quality education. Our federal government’s policies should reflect our Nation’s abiding commitment to education as an essential part of a vibrant Democracy.
The federal government should not be involved at all, except for DC. The States are perfectly capable of managing their public schools. Some are better, some are worse. But every State’s schools are better than DC’s, so until DC is a model for the nation, I see no reason at all for the federal government to be involved in our children’s education.
Congress should focus on five primary things over the next few years to improve education in America:
- Expand Access to Pre-K Programs: Students whose families are unable to pay for pre-school have long been at a disadvantage to their peers who have had a year of school before kindergarten. The Head Start Program fills an important role in addressing this problem, but in recent years the program has been underfunded and served fewer children. We must fully fund Head Start to make sure the all children have access to the crucial early years of education.
The reason those children are at a disadvantage is not because they do not attend preschool, but because their parents do not model the behaviors necessary for success. A study of Arizona schools with and without pre-K and all-day kindergarten showed that, by fifth grade, all differences between those who had attended those programs and those who had not. A study of the impacts of the Head Start program show that the benefits of the program are almost entirely gone by first grade. Head Start does not do what it is meant to do, and more kids in the program will not do anything but waste more money.
- Re-engineer the flawed “No Child Left Behind” Act: Teachers and schools must be held accountable for their progress, but we must do so in a way that encourages success, rather than punishes failure. The current system of “No Child Left Behind” causes teachers to “teach to the test,” a process that stifles innovation, rather than promotes it.
Just end “No Child Gets Ahead.” Some things you just cannot fix.
- Pay Teachers a Professional Wage: Until we pay teachers the professional wage they deserve, we will not be able to recruit sufficient numbers of the best and the brightest. Few things have as much impact on a child’s progress as the quality of his or her teacher, and we owe our kids the ery [sic] best.
Thank the Teachers Unions. They insist that all teachers be paid based on longevity, not subject matter. Scientists, Engineers, and Mathematicians are in high demand outside of the public school system, and command higher salaries than English, History, and Art teachers. If we continue to pay Math and Science teachers what we pay English and History teachers, we will continue to get what we pay for.
- Increase Access to Post-Secondary Education: Higher education opens the door on life’s opportunity, and we must continue to work to make sure that the promise of a college degree is accessible to all Americans, regardless of their background. That’s why I support this year’s college affordability reforms: a change in the Pell Grant levels to cover more of the cost of an education, tax credits for college education, and an elimination of the cumbersome student-loan bureaucracy that took billions of dollars away from educating our kids.
Apparently, Mr. Barnett did not attend any Economics classes. When more money is pumped into a system, the prices go up. Grants and student loans have driven up college costs tremendously, and that, in turn, drives up the call for more grants and loans. What these grants really mean is that those who save for college are screwed, because they do not have a need. But if you spend your money on expensive cars and vacations, so that you have nothing saved for your children’s college education, the government will help you. Punishing prudence and rewarding stupidity are what have put this nation in such a bad place.
- Promote Lifelong Education to Enhance Economic Competitiveness: If we are to remain on the forefront of an ever-changing economic climate, we must equip our professional workforce with the tools they need to stay relevant and leading edge. That means a process of continual re-education, and a more robust role for America’s excellent community colleges.
Community colleges are a great thing. I have taken classes at NVCC and TCC, and have known several people who took classes there and then transferred to a four-year state college such as George Mason and Virginia Tech. (My only complaint with community colleges is that NVCC took my dentist’s best technician from us to be a teacher. I miss her.) But they are community colleges, not federal colleges, and there is no need for federal involvement, nor is there any constitutional authority for such involvement.