EDUCATION

EDUCATION

EDUCATION

Our greatest resource as a nation are the millions of individuals who reside from sea to shining sea. Americans themselves are the heart and soul of American ingenuity and enterprise.
That said, it is unrealistic for us consider ourselves a world leader when our education system no longer leads the world. To be at the forefront in security, innovation, science, space exploration, medicine, and all the other topics of the emerging knowledge economy, we must reposition ourselves to be leaders in education.
Our current education system places far too much emphasis on standardized testing. In fact, every year, standardized testing reroutes billions of federal dollars from direct spending on student and educator needs. Teachers and schools must have more flexibility to determine curriculum and outcomes. It is imperative that we address the ratio of teachers and guidance counselors to students—lower ratios lead to more personal and impacting involvement and guidance with students, and in short, guarantee greater success. Simply put, when an education system keeps students “engaged instead of dazed,” everybody wins and we rise to the top.
I have met many young folks who start college, then drop out. In fact, an estimated 44% of our youth who start college drop out—these individuals must figure out how to earn a living with college debt, but no college diploma. The reasons students drop out vary, but include lack of resources to continue paying for college, family problems, sometimes even apathy. Many European counties have realized that a higher education degree is not in the best interest of all of its citizens. For many citizens, learning a trade may be a more viable career path. It is critical that we provide easy-access trade and career pathways for all young adults, as well as hassle-free ways for adults to return to higher education and vocational training later in life.
We also must pass comprehensive student debt reform. At present, Americans owe nearly $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. The average 20- to 30-year-old college graduate spends $350 a month on student loan payments—imagine those dollars going into the housing industry instead! I greatly support legislation that has been introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). These reform bills include tuition waivers for the first two years of community college, federal matching for state community college investment, as well as low-rate refinance opportunities for current student loan borrowers.
Deconstructing the standardized testing industry; empowering high schools and teachers; and providing affordable pathways and bridge programs for higher education and trade training are all ways to help our education system rise to the top once again. The key to being the most innovative nation in the world is producing the world’s most educated, most prepared workforce. When we all have maximum opportunities, everyone benefits.