My involvement in education has taught me that we need to encourage parents and others in the community to be involved in our public schools. Parents need to grasp the importance of education now and in the future and instill in their children the need to get as much education as possible. One of the primary ways for parents to do this is to go back to school and further their own education. If children see their parents studying and working on their GED or a college or technical degree, they will learn from the example. It will also give Kentucky a more educated workforce sooner.
We must also start educating children as early as possible. The sooner we can get children in school, the better prepared they will be when they actually start first grade. This will also allow us to identify those children who need special assistance in order to get up to expected levels before they start school. I know we do some of this now, but we need to make sure no children fall through the cracks.
I believe we need to examine the high school experience our children receive. It is important to know that roughly 25% of the young people who start high school never finish. We lose too many students, possibly because they are not engaged enough to commit to learning. Some students can be moved through school more quickly and can take college level courses early. I believe that it is vital for our businesses and community organizations to be involved in mentoring and internship programs.
Our K-12 teachers need to be paid as the professionals they are. We often hear talk of bringing teacher's pay up to the level of the average of the surrounding states. It is time that we make Kentucky the leader in our region by raising pay to exceed our surrounding states. Why is this important? Because I firmly believe that if we pay our teachers well, they will know that they are appreciated and we will be able to attract future generations into the teaching profession. We need to encourage the best and brightest to consider teaching as a viable life-long profession.
The final piece to the puzzle is making sure that postsecondary education is affordable and accessible to all who want to pursue continuing their education. Financial aid must keep pace with tuition and fee increases at our public colleges and universities. We must ensure that middle and low income families can afford to send their children to college. Working adults stuck in low paying jobs need to be eligible for financial aid, even if they go to school part-time.