Issue Position: Education
Our education system is failing to equip our nation's children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the global economy. According to a 2006 international comparison of science and math test scores, American students' science and math scores lag far behind students in many high-achieving countries such as Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In today's global economy, this is unacceptable.
There are many problems in our nation's education system, but a major crisis is our school's inability to keep students in school. Our national drop-out rate is at an all-time high, signaling that we are losing more and more of our nation's youth in our education system. In South Carolina, the drop out rates are dismal. More than 25 percent of our students do not make it to graduation. Sen. Jim DeMint has said time and again that we must make sure we get to students before they decide school is not for them. We need to encourage partnerships between universities, technical colleges, businesses and high schools to ensure our children learn academics in the context of skills and careers they might want to pursue, empowering them to prosper and succeed. In South Carolina, Sen. DeMint has seen firsthand the effect this has on our youth. High school students, who may otherwise drop-out of school, taking classes on college campuses and learning about a trade they are interested in, are much more likely to graduate high school and eventually contribute to our nation's economy.
Another issue facing our education system, is that our education costs continue to increase, but our student's test scores stay the same or improve very little. Instead of funneling more money to states through federally run education programs, DeMint believes 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. Different schools incorporate different teaching methods. Whether they may be same-sex classrooms, charter schools, career education, or partnerships with the local community college, Washington needs acknowledge that children all have different learning styles. To ensure 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.
DeMint and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas introduced a bill to return decisions back to the state and local level so that parents, teachers and school leaders would have a greater opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their individual students. Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success, or A PLUS, "would give states the opportunity to use federal resources on locally directed programs without the administrative burden of federal program requirements. More resources would be available for classroom expenditures and other education programs that local leaders believe would benefit students," according to the Heritage Foundation. Local solutions are needed for local shortcomings, and when Washington recognizes that local communities, parents and schools know whats best for their children, we will finally be on the trajectory for national success in education.
While many universities have enjoyed record enrollments, we are realizing that the increasing cost of tuition does not correlate with preparing students for a job in the workplace. We must ensure our institutions of higher learning continue to attract the best and the brightest and offer their students a world class education. To this end, the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment DeMint offered to the Higher Education Act of 2007 instructing the Government Accountability Office to study and make recommendations regarding the employment of post secondary education graduates. This is an important step to gain objective information to know if we are properly preparing American students to compete in a global marketplace.
In the dynamic, uncharted territory of the global economy of the 21st century, we must realize that federally funding public education does not have to mean federal government-controlled education. America's hallmark commitment to education is key to both our individual and national success. We can never guarantee our students a lifetime 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.