There are three core issues when describing our current education system. First, our public high school students, on average, are not performing as well as those in other developed nations. Second, colleges and universities have become too expensive for many potential students. Lastly, our college graduates are entering the workforce saddled with huge amounts of debt.
Our first priority should be addressing our K-12 public education issues. A failing public education system increases poverty, increases unemployment, increases the number of folks who rely on governmental assistance, increases crime, widens the income gap between the rich and everybody else, decreases productivity, slows economic growth, reduces tax revenues and on and on.
We need to significantly improve our education system before we fall farther behind the rest of the developed world. We don't even get listed among the top 20 nations in most categories, including math and science classes which are the cornerstones of today's high-tech global economy.
Our education problems can be solved by establishing higher standards for our K-12 graduates and educators, increasing choice and competition within our education system, and finding more efficient uses of federal taxpayer dollars. I am suggesting the following list of priorities for our K-12 students:
1. We should have a minimum education standard for all high school graduates, similar to the ACT or GED, to guarantee every student in every state an adequate education. We cannot continue to allow underperforming states and districts to produce so-called high school graduates who have limited reading skills and only a basic understanding of mathematics. Students who do not receive an adequate education rarely escape the cycle of poverty, which drains our economy and increases the tax burden on working families.
2. We need uniform standards for all teachers including minimum education levels and specific training. All teachers should have a minimum of a Masters degree in the subject they are teaching. A Masters in Education is acceptable, but a specific advanced degree is preferable, such as a Masters degree in English for English teachers, Masters in Mathematics for math teachers, etc. unless the person is a teacher’s assistant working in a classroom with a qualified teacher.
3. We should support increased wages, free college tuition and free graduate education for all teachers and prospective teachers. Teachers should receive a salary which is commensurate with their required education level. We need to increase teacher salaries, on average, to attract more people to the profession. Anyone training to be a teacher should be able to receive their college education for free. This applies to undergraduate and graduate students alike.
4. We will benefit from increased parental choice in school selection including magnet schools, private schools, charter schools, home school, or transferring across school district lines and state lines. Schools and districts who have lost funding due to parental choice issues should be able to apply directly for federal reimbursement.
5. Failing schools and school districts should be able to apply directly for federal assistance.
6. Free electronic textbooks should be available for all grade levels and subjects.
7. Free testing materials should be available for all grade levels and subjects.
8. We will remove the administrative function of the US Department of Education (DOE), and restore authority for education decisions back to the individual states.
9. All education funding provided to states, districts, or schools should be processed through a Community Development Block Grant type system. Any savings created from removal of the DOE’s administrative function should be transferred to the states.
10. All teachers and school administrators should be subject to a performance review system to identify weaknesses and strengths, and add an element of accountability which is found in every other profession. Schools and school districts should have the flexibility to restructure their teaching staffs or administration as needed in order to achieve the minimum required education standards.
For full details about K-12 education reform, plus college affordability, please read my book "I Can Rebuild America: The 21st Century Contract With America" available now at Amazon.