In the United States, education, more than ethnicity, religion or geography, determines whether a person can achieve the American dream, or be relegated to a life of limitations or even poverty. In today's global and information-based economy, every child who drops out of high school is committing virtual economic suicide.
I was raised by a single mother who taught me that a good education was absolutely essential. Thanks to her, I returned to school after I had four children, and received my college and then law degree from the University of Hawaii. I have personally experienced the limited opportunities available to a college dropout compared to a college graduate.
It is absolutely essential that we improve the quality of public education. It is an essential service that provides equal opportunity for all children in Hawaii to reach their full potential. Quality public education is especially important to our State economy since Hawaii is an isolated island state. We rely upon the abilities of our own residents to build and maintain a diversified, sustainable, growing economy to support our state. Approximately 80% of our children graduate from DOE schools; we must improve the quality of the education they receive.
We still have a long way to go to raise all our children to the same educational level. Reaching our goal will take more expertise, technology, and training than any state can support by itself. The federal government needs to provide that overarching assistance to all the states so that our nation can truly bring our public education system into the twenty-first century and compete on a global level.
I support increasing federal dollars to build the framework necessary to comply with the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). However, federal dollars should flow directly to the classroom, where they will have the biggest impact on our children's education.
I believe we must:
Increase classroom teacher training;
Develop more programs to bring new people to teaching, such as Teach for America; and
Expand training for principals to be curriculum leaders and to implement organizational change.
These programs cannot be "one-size-fits-all", and must recognize the different challenges faced by schools with different income levels, cultural values, and community/geographic resources.
We must work constantly to improve NCLB including the flexibility to recognize steady improvement, even if we do not reach the numerical goal for a specific year, and to relieve schools from burdensome red tape when they demonstrate regularly increasing achievement.