My commitment to public education is as rooted in my own personal history as it is in my political philosophy. In high school, my teachers and a 4-H agent took an interest in me and pointed me toward college. As a result, I became the first person in my family to receive a college degree. Teaching was my first job after graduation and began my career in public service. My life is a personal testament to the impact that good educators and good schools can have on the lives of our children.
The foundation of a strong economy is a sound public education system that prepares our students for the jobs of tomorrow. My platform for improving our schools and attracting and retaining good educators is based on the following principles:
* Educators should be paid a fair salary.
* There should be no unfunded federal mandates.
* Not all schools or school districts are created equal.
* Expanded access to higher education provides better-trained educators.
Teachers should not need second jobs to make ends meet. We need to improve compensation to increase retention rates and attract new educators. I'm strongly supportive of the NEA's nationwide salary initiative to raise the starting salary to $40,000 for all pre-K-12 teachers, and at the federal level I'll do what it takes to make that happen.
No Unfunded Mandates
Programs like No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have the right goals but the wrong strategy. Without fully funding the program, the government ensured that the program would not reach its goals. Forcing states to meet federal requirements without adequate funding puts worthwhile programs in competition with each other for diminishing state funds.
NCLB has led to standardization that is more punitive than constructive. Schools and school districts are not created equal. The program must be overhauled; reducing the focus on standardized tests, replacing the current accountability system with one that gives credit for progress, and providing a support mechanism for educators and schools that are underperforming.
Increased Access to Education
Access to education is key to providing more and better-trained educators. Pell grants offer opportunities for those least able to afford college to get an education. More money would provide a larger pool of prospective teachers as well as offer opportunities for more training.