By Victor Skinner
TAMPA – If we made a wish list for education reform in America, it would look a lot like the education platform recently adopted by Republicans at their national convention in Tampa.
EAGnews is a nonpartisan organization, but we are unabashedly pro-reform, which puts us squarely in opposition to the nation’s teachers unions. As the biggest supporters of the Democratic Party, teachers unions have abused their strong influence to shape that party’s education policy, and both have focused primarily on resisting meaningful change.
So it’s no surprise our views align well with the fresh and bold ideas the GOP is offering to overhaul America’s education system. The Republican education platform relies on accountability, the power of school choice, and transparency – which we believe are essential elements to improving academics for all students.
But as the official Republican platform points out:
“Education is much more than schooling. It is the whole range of activities by which families and communities transmit to a younger generation, not just knowledge and skills, but ethical and behavioral norms and traditions. It is the handing over of a personal and cultural identity.
“That is why education choice has expanded so vigorously. It is also why American education has, for the last several decades, been the focus of constant controversy, as centralizing forces outside the family and community have sought to remake education in order to remake America. They have not succeeded, but they have done immense damage.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
It’s critically important for public officials to curb the influence of organized labor on school finances, but it’s equally important to rid schools of the depraved union educators who indoctrinate vulnerable students into their Marxist political causes.
It’s all about choice
“Today’s education reform movement … recognizes the wisdom of state and local control of our schools, and it wisely sees consumer rights in education – choice – as the most important driving force for renewing our schools,” the GOP platform says.
“School choice – whether through charter schools, open enrollment requests, college lab schools, virtual schools, career and technical education programs, vouchers, or tax credits – is important for all children, especially for families with children trapped in failing schools.”
The success of innovative charter schools in most states across the nation demonstrates how important school choice can be for families. That’s particularly true for students from lower-income families who have been trapped in poorly functioning neighborhood schools for years.
Voucher programs in cities like New Orleans, Washington D.C. and Milwaukee also provide important alternatives for students and their families.
The positive response to more far-reaching voucher programs recently adopted in Republican-controlled states like Indiana and Louisiana demonstrate the GOP and ed reformers are in sync with the general public. Indiana, in particular, has demonstrated that voucher programs can help poor and minority students, and improve efforts to close our country’s infamous achievement gap.
Republicans rightly recognize that by giving parents a variety of school choices they will become far more engaged in their child’s education. Competition among all types of educational institutions will drive both public and private schools to achieve the best results possible to attract future clients.
We also agree with the Republican viewpoint that stronger evaluation systems are needed to identify the most effective teachers, and merit pay should be used to reward their efforts.
“We support legislation that will correct the current law provision which defines a ‘Highly Qualified Teacher’ merely by his or her credentials, not results in the classroom,” the Republican Party states. “We urge school districts to make use of teaching talent in business, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, and in the military, especially among our returning veterans.
“Rigid tenure systems based on the ‘last in, first out’ policy should be replaced with a merit-based approach that can attract fresh talent and dedication to the classroom. All personnel who interact with school children should pass background checks and be held to highest standards of personal conduct.”
Those are changes that we believe would go a long way toward improving the quality of teaching in U.S. classrooms.
It’s not about money
While teachers unions and their political puppets continue to cling to the notion that increased spending on public education is the road to enlightenment, our research convinces us they’re wrong.
EAGnews.org has found countless examples of large-scale waste tied to provisions in union contracts that have no bearing on student instruction. A good example is the common “automatic annual step increase” typically given to all teachers every year, regardless of their classroom performance.
Republicans understand this reality. They know public schools could do far more with the resources they have if they were allowed to curb runaway labor spending and hold teachers more accountable.
“Since 1965 the federal government has spent $2 trillion on elementary and secondary education with no substantial improvement in academic achievement or high school graduation rates (which currently are 59 percent for African-American students and 63 percent for Hispanics).
“The U.S. spends an average of more than $10,000 per pupil per year in public schools, for a total of more than $550 billion. That represents more than 4 percent of GDP devoted to K-12 education in 2010. Of that amount, federal spending was more than $47 billion.
“Clearly, if money were the solution, our schools would be problem-free,” according to the Republican platform.
The Republican solutions are straight-forward and student-focused. They also reflect the effective education reforms EAGnews.org helped champion over the past several years in Indiana, Wisconsin, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, California, Nevada and several other states.
“After years of trial and error, we know what does work … that is powering education reform on the local level across America:, accountability on the part of administrators, parents and teachers; higher academic standards; programs that support the development of character and financial literacy; periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading, history, and geography; renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of our Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history the celebrates the birth of this great nation,” the GOP platform says.
We tend to agree. Tomorrow we will look at the education plank in the Democratic Party platform.