As summer comes to a close, thousands of young Arizonans will trade in their flip-flops for textbooks and their iPods for calculators (well, maybe they won’t actually give up their iPods). Once again, it’s time for our children to go back to school.
For adults, that means a renewed focus on how to improve America’s education system so that our children are properly prepared to enter a workforce that is sure to be more global, dynamic, and competitive than ever before. As the son and brother of teachers, I have always been a strong advocate for our education system. Yet, there are many different philosophies about how best to improve public education in the United States.
In general, I believe the supporters of public education can be sorted into two categories. There are those – let’s call them the “spenders” – who believe the answer to nearly any education problem is always more money, regardless of broader, underlying systemic problems or the effect that increased spending would have on local, state, and federal budgets. Even when the data show that more money does not always translate into improved scores, they remain fiercely and sincerely committed to higher spending.
On the other hand, there is another category of education advocates we can call the “reformers;” these are the parents, teachers, and legislators who believe the problem is not that we’re not spending enough on education, but rather that we’re not allocating those resources effectively and efficiently. They understand that spending alone – without greater accountability, competition, and choice – will not result in a quality education for our children. In short, these reformers believe we must change the structure of our education system so that it is focused on the needs of students, not on the wants of administrators, unions, or politicians.
I believe Michelle Rhee put it best when she drafted the mission statement for her new pro-student education group. According to that statement:
“America’s schools are failing our kids. On this point, the data is clear. While some people blame the kids, or simply want to throw more money at the problem, we know that real change requires a better system – one that puts students’ needs before those of special interests or wasteful bureaucracies.”
I could not agree more. After all, there is no more important charge than seeing to it that all young Americans, our nation’s most precious assets, are able to receive an excellent education.
However, the path we’re currently on – that of the spenders – is not working. We are the richest country in the world and we spend more to educate our students than any other nation. Yet, according to a recent World Economic Forum report, the United States ranks a dismal 52nd globally in math and science education.
Clearly, the current approach earns a failing grade. Worse, it’s failed our children. And, in this era of massive debt and deficits at all levels of government, we cannot afford to spend more. In fact, with no money left to spend, this is actually an appropriate time to focus on reforms that work rather than continuing to throw money at the problem.
While lawmakers in Arizona and Washington will likely continue their strong focus on fiscal issues in the coming months, we should not let this opportunity to reform to our education system pass us by. Just as we must responsibly solve our debt crisis in order to avoid leaving our children with the bill, so too we must work – Democrats and Republicans together – to prepare our children to compete and win in the international economy of the 21st century.
- Success in Education Reform Requires Radical Change (timesofoklahoma.com)
- Educating The Educators (socyberty.com)
- Teachers Trusted More Than Their Unions, New Survey Shows (huffingtonpost.com)
- Schools’ Race to the Top Spending Detailed (timesoftexas.com)
- StudentsFirst, Better Education for Kids, Inc. Enter into Exclusive Partnership-cnbnews.net (gloucestercitynews.net)
- Making a Difference (acfeinc.wordpress.com)
- Dropout chiefs imperil a generation of kids (theglobeandmail.com)
- The Science of Attention Spans (thedailybeast.com)
- Michelle Rhee Doesn’t Want to Eliminate Public Schools Entirely (reason.com)