Issue Position: Education
Education is more than schooling, and learning must be more than time in the classroom. Our children must be prepared to enter, participate, and lead in a 21st century global workforce.
As a single parent with young daughters, I spent a lot of time helping in their classrooms as they went through the Johnson County Public Schools. I witnessed how excellent teachers, good facilities, and a committed community nurtured students and encouraged them to excel. I understand how our schools are so much more than just a place where students acquire a set of skills or the ability to pass a test. They are the places where imagination can kindle a lifelong love of learning, where respect fosters a critical perspective, and where persistence nurtures the talents necessary to solve problems and does not stymie them.
Thomas Jefferson spoke to the importance of education in 1810 when he wrote John Tyler, "I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it." Our commitment as a nation today is undiminished but our approach needs to be revisited.
While there are certainly problems with the "No Child Left Behind Act," questions about funding, federal interference, and "teaching to a test;" nonetheless, its achievements should be considered fairly in the context of what the act was intended to do: improve our public school system by requiring performance, accountability, and quantifiable progress to agreed upon standards across the spectrum of students, teachers, schools, and administrations. It is hard to argue that No Child Left Behind has succeeded in raising the floor of our education experience across school systems nationwide by steering teachers and students towards "proficiency."
No Child Left Behind is not a "cure all" for education. It has not nor can it address excellence. We now need to make sure no child is brought up short by building a better educational system unafraid of competition with opportunities and flexibility beyond a minimum standard. And we must continue to ensure promise and opportunity of higher education for students who might otherwise be unable to afford one.
We are in a global economy, and our students need to be prepared for the challenges of this new era. Our children deserve no less from us.