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Concord Monitor - As President, I'll Modernize U.S. Education


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By Jon Huntsman

One of the many reasons that people have lost trust in our nation's economic and political system is the inequality of economic opportunities afforded to our citizens.

Every boy and girl in America, no matter their socioeconomic background, deserves a fair chance to build a good career and improve their economic standing.

Tragically, today that is not the case. Millions of children are trapped in failing schools, sentenced to a life of unfulfilled potential. Every child has a genius within, and education must be the great equalizer that unleashes their God-given skills and levels the economic playing field.

Developing our human capital is also critical to ensuring that America remains competitive in the 21st-century global economy, and continues to produce the best and brightest innovators and entrepreneurs.

My administration will seek to transform and modernize our education system by ending the current one-size-fits-all approach and instead focusing our efforts on how best to serve individual communities, individual schools and individual students.

This means, first and foremost, restoring local control. States and local districts are laboratories of innovation, and Washington must empower them to meet the unique needs of their students.

I was the first governor to reject the unnecessary federal overreach of No Child Left Behind - which imposed a multitude of burdensome mandates and regulations on states - and as president I will seek its full repeal.

Recognizing that competition breeds excellence, we must break down the federal barriers that inhibit states from maximizing school choice, which may include voucher programs, charter schools, or giving parents the option to choose between public schools.

Early childhood learning is critical for our students' long-term success, and the Head Start program has failed to meet its laudable goals. I will block grant Head Start funds to the states, allowing them to create unique childhood education programs. In Utah, I signed into law an all-day kindergarten program aimed at preparing at-risk children for school, which has been a tremendous success and can serve as a model for other states.

We must reorient the Department of Education, which has grown too large and powerful. Massively scaling down the department, and eventually removing it from Cabinet-rank, will clear the way for necessary education reforms at the local level and free up precious resources. Every dollar saved in the bureaucracy is a dollar that can be invested in our classrooms.

New technologies are constantly creating innovative opportunities to individualize education and introduce competition. Digital learning, for example, can enhance foreign language studies and help narrow the gap in resources between urban, suburban and rural schools. The federal government can and should promote these programs by cutting red tape and eliminating roadblocks to their use.

We must also recognize that perhaps the single greatest factor in determining student achievement is the quality of the teacher, the vast majority of whom work long hours for mediocre pay. Quality teaching should be encouraged by rewarding the best teachers with higher salaries, thus creating an important incentive for excellence.

In order to improve transparency and incentivize reform, my administration will expand the use of Common Core Standards - a common effort of 45 states - which benchmarks our children against the very best of their global competitors. Our children must be prepared to compete with their peers around the world, and these standards are a powerful tool to measure progress and help create momentum for necessary reforms.

Finally, while states must be the primary driver of education policy, the federal government should provide targeted funding for vital national priorities such as advanced mathematics, science and language skills. Every child should have the opportunity to learn a second language, an invaluable skill in an increasingly global economy.

Reforming our education system so that every child has an equal opportunity to succeed is the civil rights issue of our time, and an economic imperative for our country's future.

Having lived overseas four times, I have seen firsthand that other nations are making the tough choices necessary to compete in the 21st century. America must do the same.

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