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Public Statements

The Future of Education in America

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Speaker, let me first begin by associating myself with the remarks of the distinguished gentle lady from the District of Columbia and the gentle lady from Maryland on a very thoughtful presentation that they offered the body this evening.

Mr. Speaker, there has been some controversy in the blogosphere and on conservative talk radio shows about some comments I made last week regarding my belief that every child in this country should have the constitutional right to an education of equal high quality. Let me be clear. Last week, I raised the possibility that such a right might lead to an education standard in this country of an iPad for every child just like it could lead to standards of class sizes and athletic facilities and music classes and other important resources for our children.

Let me be clear on a few things. These devices are revolutionizing our country, and they will fundamentally alter how we educate our children. Mr. Speaker, this is an iPad. It is an incredible device, so incredible, in fact, before I could open it up after I recently purchased it, Apple came out with the iPad 2.

Mr. Speaker, this is the Kindle, a device from Amazon that allows you to download books and to read them. Before I could finish opening up my Kindle, Kindle came out with an even smaller Kindle, neither of which has been activated at this time.

Mr. Speaker, it will not be very long before every child in this country is educated using one of these devices or something similar. Why? Just go to your local Borders bookstore, that is, if there's one left.

Recently, Borders announced it was closing 200 of 508 stores, including one in my congressional district. If the recent history of the music business is any guide, then other bookstores and libraries, both private and public, may not be far behind them. That's because the future of publishing isn't in hard copy books any more or magazines or newspapers. It's all digital. The iPad, the Kindle, the Nook, and other similar devices make it possible to access any book, any periodical at any time any place.

As digital downloadable music has gained in popularity, we've seen a fundamental shift in the music industry. Now there are hardly any physical stores where we can buy CDs or other music products anymore. We've gone from the 78 to the 45 to the long-playing LP to DVDs, and now to downloadable music. The same will be true for publishing. Books will soon become obsolete. So the school library will soon, unfortunately, be obsolete.

Schools are likely in the future to use that space for more classrooms. Maybe it will help alleviate our classroom size problems. But for certain, architects in the future will likely be designing future schools without a library.

Hard copies of textbooks will become obsolete. Instead of incurring the costs of buying them and storing them and instead of forcing our children to lug around huge backpacks full of heavy books, we'll just download them onto a device just like one of these. This is going to happen in the future. In fact, it is happening right now.

In my district, at Chicago State University, thanks to the innovation of President Wayne Watson, the freshmen class of students this past fall, every single freshman received an iPad. Over time as new classes enroll, the administration at Chicago State University hopes that all students will use electronic devices for textbooks and to submit assignments. It could be a textbookless campus within 4 years. "Imagine the cost savings for schools,'' President Watson said. "Give a child an iPad, a Nook or a Kindle or any of these devices when they are in the first grade, and he or she could use it all of the way through college. All of the cost of buying hard copy books for the course of that child's educational career would be simply wiped out.''

Now, Mr. Speaker, because I suggested this idea, I have been called a communist and a socialist and any number of other things, but let me tell you why that is misleading and malicious. Let me go back to what I talked about last week.

Last week from the House floor, I talked about the greatest capitalists in the history of our world. In my opinion, the greatest capitalists in the history of our world were the men who founded our country, our Founding Fathers. They were engaged in all manners of trade and commerce that ranged from farming cotton and beans and corn. And even before the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1788, even before the Bill of Rights in 1791, even before the Declaration of Independence, from 1492 until 1776, and certainly and even more tragically in 1619, 19 scared Africans arrived on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, 157 years before the Declaration of Independence. Their desire for commerce and capitalism even had them trading people. They traded among themselves and with others across the world. And when they rebelled against the government of England and established their own country, they had a choice in an unregulated, unfettered free market system or a system of government with checks and balances and regulations and rules. So much for the antigovernment movement in our Nation. Our Founding Fathers were not antigovernment. They chose government, but they chose government with an overall structure of freedom and personal liberty along with regulation and rules, which leads us to the Bill of Rights.

Mr. Speaker, the First Amendment is one of the great landmarks in human rights and personal freedom. It certainly is that not only in domestic history but in world history. It protects free speech, freedom of and freedom from religion, the right to assemble and to petition the government. It also happens, and often not talked about in our country, it also happens to be the greatest economic program in the history of our country. Think about it.

I asked the Congressional Research Service and their experts responded by saying to a specific question: How many jobs in the United States of America are tied to the First Amendment? Initially they said: It is practically incalculable. He said any job, and I quote, "with a public presence'' could be considered protected under the First Amendment. And, therefore, the Congressional Research Service conservatively estimated that approximately 50 percent of all jobs in the United States are tied to the First Amendment. Imagine, or just stop and think about it. Every newspaper in this Nation and the jobs that emanate from those newspapers are tied to the First Amendment. Books, Internet publications, every TV station, social media, public speaking, Sirius Network, AM/FM radio, advocacy, lawyers, movies, CDs, DVDs, VHRs, VHSs, Comcast, Blu-ray, MP3 players, Democrats and Republicans, telephone services, cell phones, Droids, pagers, music--classical, R&B, pop, country western, hip-hop, techno, karaoke--the United States Postal Service, Federal Express, UPS, print advertising, Times Square, New York City, commercials, iPods, iPhones, iPads, computers, art, museums, photography, education, colleges and schools, theaters, plays, musicals, and on and on and on, they have their basis in the First Amendment.

That doesn't even include freedom of religion, the churches, the synagogues, the mosques, all religions, nonprofit organizations, 501(c)(3)s, 501(c)(4)s, charitable giving. All of this is First Amendment activity.

Mr. Speaker, the First Amendment, with American innovation through time, from the founding of our country to this very date has unleashed over time the greatest economy that the world has ever known. The Founding Fathers set in place a system that through our value system would give birth to more than 50 percent of all jobs in the United States of America. And that system has worked remarkably well for a long, long time.

But now there is a problem, Mr. Speaker. These devices will cause the loss of jobs at bookstores. Borders is closing almost 50 percent of its stores. It is going to cost the jobs of librarians and libraries, publishing houses, printers, book binders.

And where do we think these devices are made? They are not made here in the United States. They are most likely made in China or other places. So if you are not an American and if you believe in the value system that emanates from the First Amendment, including all of the jobs that emanate from the First Amendment, and you are outside of America and you are looking in, you need only wait for American innovation as a result of our own freedom system to take advantage of selling to the United States at some cheaper labor costs a product that helps strengthen our First Amendment. It comes, however, at the cost of jobs. Significant jobs.

So the First Amendment, the amendment that has unleashed such great economic activity and brought about such amazing innovation and helped America become the greatest economy in the world, is now known for helping the Chinese economy grow and create jobs and prosperity and, ironically, challenge America's place in the global economy.

We all know our economy has struggled over the past few years. The financial and economic crises have been devastating for many Americans. The unemployment rate still hovers near 9 percent. And in communities like mine, it is near 15 percent.

How do we turn our economy around? I have suggested, Mr. Speaker, that we follow the mold of the greatest capitalists and turn to our Constitution; turn to our bylaws, the bylaws of the American enterprise. That is what President Roosevelt did as he began his fourth term in office.

Mr. Speaker, here is what President Roosevelt said on January 11, 1944, in his State of the Union address. January 11, 1944, unemployment is beginning to come down, but throughout President Roosevelt's administration, we see the highest levels of unemployment in the history of the United States, the period known as the Great Depression.

But as we are coming out of that Great Depression, President Roosevelt, after having served nearly four terms as President of the United States, has some insights on how future generations of Americans must address unemployment. Today, unemployment hovering at around 9 percent.

Let's hear what our President had to say: "It is now our duty to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for winning a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than we have ever known before. We cannot be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people''--and this is January 11, 1944-- "whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed and insecure.''

"This Republic had its beginning''--1788, 1791--"and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights.''

Here Roosevelt is giving deference to the idea that the First Amendment through the Great Depression is responsible for most of the Nation's jobs.

"Among these rights,'' President Roosevelt says, "is the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

"As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however,'' the President acknowledges, "as our industrial economy expanded, these political rights proved inadequate to assure us''--that is, every American-- "equality in the pursuit of happiness.

"We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.

"Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

"In our day, these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all, regardless of station, race, or creed.

"Among these are:

"The right to a job; the right to earn enough food to provide for one's family; the right to every farmer to raise and sell their products; the right of every businessman, large and small; the right of every family to a decent home; the right to adequate medical care; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age and sickness and accident and unemployment; the right to a good education; all of these rights.

"And after this war is won,'' he said, "they spell security. We must be prepared to move forward''--forward through time, a time that President Roosevelt himself would not live to see-- "in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

"America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these rights and similar rights are carried into practice by our citizens.''

Mr. Speaker, what if we amended the Constitution, if we amended the bylaws of America, to include the right of every citizen to an education of equal high quality? What would that do for architects, and roofers, and bricklayers and manufacturers, as school districts across this country seek to meet the equal high quality standard by building new schools and improving existing ones?

What would it do for the NASDAQ, as schools improve their technological capabilities with laptops and computers and iPads and Nooks and Kindles and other devices? There are 60 million children in the Nation's public school systems. Sixty million. I believe that, like the First Amendment over time, an amendment guaranteeing every American the right to a quality education for all students would provide a huge economic boost for our country, just like the First Amendment at the inception of our country is responsible for 50 percent of all jobs, if we truly want to compete with China, with India, with other countries around the world, if we truly want a population that is better educated than any other population on planet Earth, capable of paying more taxes, eliminating unemployment, rebuilding schools, rebuilding bridges, rebuilding hope in our communities, and by definition every time we build a newer first class school, we change the property values of every home around that school. In America we just don't sell housing anymore, we sell housing plus schools at the same time.

I wish every Member of Congress, Mr. Speaker, in my home State would visit New Trier in the northwest suburbs. New Trier High School represents quality of education that is provided unlike any other high school in the Nation. There are state-of-the-art classrooms, with small class sizes. It has top quality athletic facilities including two aquatic centers. That's swimming. The school rents it out for fees, raising revenue to help offset some of its cost. There are 17 varsity athletic teams for boys and 17 varsity athletic teams for girls. New Trier is noted for its drama, for its music, for its visual arts programs. Students are given the opportunity to develop all of the aspects of their talent. They are given a full educational experience that molds boys and girls into young men and women. The academics at New Trier are unrivaled. In 2006, the mean SAT verbal score was 620, and the mean SAT math score was 650, meaning that 1370 was an average score at New Trier. The school literally churns out Ivy Leaguers.

Mr. Speaker, I think we need more New Triers. We need all of our schools to have the facilities, the resources, the rigor of New Trier. I certainly need it in my congressional district on the south side of Chicago. And if there is someone out there in America who wishes they had a school like that in their congressional district, I wish they would just go touch their television set, Mr. Speaker and say ``amen.''

But we can't get there, Mr. Speaker, under local property tax regimes that fund our schools. In the 50 States and territories, there are 95,000 public schools in 15,000 school districts, in 20,000 cities--all different, all separate, all unequal and all funded differently.

At New Trier, roughly $15,000 is spent on every child per year, which is nearly double the State average. That's because New Trier is located in one of the wealthiest areas in my State and, therefore, has the resources to fund such a high quality education.

Now I don't want to take, Mr. Speaker, anything from New Trier. My vision on the floor of this Congress is that the United States of America should be building 95,000 New Triers across our country--that's 95,000 schools putting millions of Americans to work in high quality education--for as long as there is an America, not for the 112th Congress, not for the 113th Congress, but for all of these Congresses, and there have been 112

Congresses that have made the First Amendment responsible for 51 percent of all jobs in this Nation. It has taken 112 Congresses for 51 percent of all jobs to be vested in the First Amendment.

What's the great thing about my amendment? The jobs that are associated with building 95,000 schools are not likely to end up in Beijing. Because building schools has something to do with putting Americans to work. That's very different than building iPads, or using First Amendment values that tend to leave our own country and, yes, they spread good will throughout the world but it takes our quality of life and our standard of living with them.

And that's what Mr. Roosevelt is talking about. I mean, he is the President that had to address unemployment. So what Roosevelt is looking for are jobs with domestic content. But he recognizes that the Constitution of the United States, however much we honor it, is insufficient on the question of economic rights for all Americans to ensure that future generations of Americans will be the beneficiary of the highest possible education standard that the world has ever known.

As I have said, Mr. Speaker, it will create new jobs over time. As teachers are hired to provide that high quality education and schools are built and rebuilt and technology is purchased and maintained, that will unleash over time immense economic capitalistic activity that will drive job creation and corporate profits for generations to come. Yes, Mr. Speaker, there will be a cost. But if we can find money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, if we can find money to bail out Wall Street, if, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we can find money to put a man on the Moon, then we ought to be able to find money to put a man and a woman on their own two feet right here in America and guarantee our children an equal high quality education like that of New Trier.

Mr. Speaker, only the Constitution of the United States can guarantee that kind of education system and at the same time unleash incredible job growth and economic activity.

With the few minutes I have remaining, I have been dedicating this session of Congress to the unemployed. A lot of unemployed people have been sending me their resumes, and the cost of inputting their resumes into the House RECORD, for which I am asking them to continue to send me their resumes and stories, is astronomical.

And I wonder sometimes, Mr. Speaker, why the Congressional Record isn't digitized, why we still have to cut down trees to print all of these speeches delivered by Members of Congress. Well, the cost would be significantly less if the Congress of the United States would catch up to the Nation's education system and start digitizing the Congressional Record. I'm not totally unconvinced yet that we're not dragging our feet into the future on purpose.

With that said, I want to read a few stories of some people who have been going through, well, a whole lot of hell, Mr. Speaker, in this economy. These are the stories of our men and women who have served. This is from John Bridges:

"Representative Jackson, I appreciate your effort to show the country what's happening to the veterans by entering their resumes in the Congressional Record. A bit of background for you: I was raised in Tilden, Illinois, and joined the U.S. Navy when I was 17. And after 22 years, I retired in the Dallas, Texas, area. I then went into the wireless telecommunications industry for over 12 years before being laid off at the end of August, 2010.

"I have not had any success with any position since that time. I've had one interview with the VA, and an upcoming one with the University of North Texas. However, I have not heard back from anyone, so I'm assuming that the positions have gone to other individuals. Thank you, and good luck with this effort, as well as your service to the Congress.''

Thank you, Mr. Bridges. We're going to do what we can, I hope, one of these days in this Congress to find you a job.

How about a former sergeant from the United States Marine Corps, Robert Green: "Congressman Jackson, Jr., thank you for thinking of the veterans, whose sacrifice for our country should always be respected and honored the way one veteran honors another.

"My story is that after getting out of the Marine Corps in 1980 I landed a job as a welder working in Arizona on a power plant. I went to night school, obtained my certificate of completion for the trade I was working in and continued to use my benefits to add classes at the local community college level while raising my family and trying to live the American Dream. After nearly 30 years of work in the construction industry I found myself laid off.

"I had not completed the degree program, but had the experience and enough credits for a 2-year degree in the industry. I had worked hard to establish a role of senior project manager on a construction project; yet without that degree, most companies will not even give me a call.

"It is my hope that this idea not only heightens the concern of veterans, but sheds light on the college industry's business model that keeps people forever pursuing degrees that, despite their personal life changes, nothing changes. Thanks again.'' Former sergeant, United States Marine Corps, Robert Green.

"Congressman, I am currently a government contractor with the 505th Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. We're undergoing a Research Management Decision, RMD 802, which includes the realigning of resources for fiscal year 2010 and 2014 to decrease funding for contract support and increase funding for approximately 33,400 new civilian manpower authorizations, 10,000 of which are for the defense acquisition workforce.

I and three other 30-percent-or-more disabled veterans are being replaced by workers and will be terminated from employment effective the 25th of February, 2011. All three of us have served our country for over 20 years and have been an integral part of the 505th Combat Training Squadron for years. It's going to be a difficult task to find work because of our age and our disabilities.

"I myself, having young children and limited opportunities for work, find myself wondering if everything that I've worked for and the American Dream of keeping my house and putting my kids through college has now become a nightmare. Thanks for promising to post the veterans' resumes. And I believe that even though you're not promising jobs, at least you're trying to bring visibility to the plight of our Nation's veterans.'' Mr. Tracy L. Palmer--put his life on the line for the United States of America. The least we can do is try and find Mr. Palmer a job.

"Good evening. My name is Thomas Gadbois. I recently read an article about this program in the Marine Times. I served in the Marine Corps from 2001 to 2002 before receiving a medical discharge. I was separated after having a seizure disorder. During my time in the Corps I served as a radio operator, a platoon sergeant, and worked a complex entry control point while serving in Iraq in 2007. I've been searching for a job for over 1 year now, and my family and I recently relocated to Okinawa, Japan, where the job search still continues.

"I would like to thank you for starting this program. There are so many veterans out there that can be productive members of our society if the Congress of the United States would just find something for them to do.''

Out of respect for your resume, which is going into the Congressional Record tonight, my hat is off to you, Thomas Gadbois. We're going to do what we can to try and find you a job.

"I served as an active duty member, full time, in the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard for over 20 years, Mr. Speaker, as an ordnance mechanic. I took advantage of the VA programs after retiring in 2000 to start a second career in the information technology field. I applied to all technology positions at a local VA medical center as they were available. My application was not even considered. I never gave up and tried for at least 10 more years.

"In my last job, I was making $44,000, but it was just enough for the both of us. Now I am forced to tell potential employers I will take a minimum of $15 per hour just to get interviewed. I see American companies wallowing in their greed, Mr. Speaker, to outsource jobs to other countries because it's cheaper, and that's what we're getting into, cheap products instead of investing in the talents and the skills and the knowledge of the American worker. This has to stop somewhere. ``Respectfully yours, Pasquale Filoromo, TSgt United States Air Force, retired.''

They go on and on and on.


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