Issue Position: Education
Success in School, Success in Life
America spends more on education than almost any other government program, adding up to nearly 5% of our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In many states, more than half of the total local and state budgets are spent on education. America has rightly demonstrated a strong commitment to education, because it is key to both individual and national success.
Yet despite a steady increase in our commitment to education in terms of dollars, America continues to fall behind other industrialized nations in preparing our children to be contenders in a competitive global economy. For example, on international math and science exams, American students show mediocre results, placing behind countries around the world, from Slovenia and Bulgaria to Canada and Japan.
An education system that is good enough for America's "edu-crats" is no longer good enough for our children. As we've been reminded time and again, the world is flat: borders are becoming seamless, and Americans are now competing for jobs and salaries with the best and brightest from around the world. Our education system must prepare our children to succeed in this global economy.
Unfortunately, our politically-managed government schools have been forced to focus more on providing social services than actually teaching our children. As a result, they are utterly failing to prepare our students with the life and career skills they need to be happy and successful. Good teachers aren't being adequately rewarded for their successes, teaching materials do little to practically apply the information students are learning and experts are rarely allowed to share their real-world experiences in the classroom.
America must make some tough choices about our education system. If we want to continue allowing the government to have a monopoly on the operation of our schools, we must accept the fact that we will continue to lose our competitiveness, our jobs, and our quality of life.
I believe that it is time to empower students and parents with more flexibility in how they use education dollars. If we continue to funnel federal funding to only one educational model, we will never realize the innovation and variety that are needed to serve the wide range of student interests, aptitudes, and learning styles. Public education is foundational to our very system of government, and it must be transformed to center on flexibility and accountability instead of a one-size-fits-all bureaucracy.
As we look at policy solutions to expand the way federal dollars get to students, there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon. We must allow schools that are succeeding to continue to do what is working instead of forcing them to conform to an outdated government model. Strong professional application and skills development programs, opportunity scholarships, and Pell Grants for high school students are fresh ideas that can reinvigorate a stagnant education system that is being insulated from reality by the well-intentioned but misguided policies of the past.
In the dynamic, uncharted territory of the global economy of the 21st century, we must realize that funding public education does not have to mean government-controlled education. We can never guarantee our students a life time of employment, but we must invest in innovative ideas that will ensure them a lifetime of employability. Only then will success in school truly equate to success in life.