Educational reform in this country can be summarized as follows:
(1) Reform, not eliminate, the federal Department of Education by getting them out of K-12 education;
(2) All K-12 educational funding, reforms and innovation would occur at the state or local level;
(3) Eliminate Head Start and convert the program to block grants to states to establish and expand pre-K programs within existing school districts;
(4) Automatic enrollment into pre-K programs of children in low-income households;
(5) Emphasis on English language proficiency and development of social and discipline skills in these pre-K programs;
(6) Provide for greater parental choice in schools through the establishment of charter schools, cross-district registration based upon need, privatization at the local level, and some form of school voucher program based upon family income with voucher amounts awarded on a sliding scale basis up to a ceiling of costs;
(7) Enhance teacher training through expansion of the TEACH grant program with less emphasis on educational theory and greater emphasis on classroom experience;
(8) Recruit teachers in needed subject matters through establishing a differential pay system which can built into new collective bargaining contracts;
(9) Reform teacher certification programs through liberalization to speed up the process and make it easier for qualified individuals to enter the teaching profession;
(10) Use of merit pay systems to attract good teachers to low-performing schools and continued merit pay to be based on student output;
(11) Revision of teacher pay increases based upon annual performance appraisals which should be mutually developed by both the union and administration and raises to be based on merit with a floor COLA increase and a maximum based upon a perfect evaluation;
(12) Revision of existing tenure laws by possibly extending the period to five years instead of the current three and liberalize the process for teacher removal;
(13) Enact programs and requirements that encourage greater parental involvement in the educational process and programs that encourage proper and consistent discipline within the schools at the local level;
(14) Move the School Lunch Program from the USDA and transfer it to the Department of Education with choices based on cost effectiveness;
(15) Expand federal student loan programs towards projected high-need positions with automatic repayment at some agreed upon rate of interest over a specified time period provided the recipient actually was employed in one of these high-need positions for a specific period of time;
(16) Make federal loans and grants to college students contingent upon high school academic performance, SAT scores and other objective criteria;
(17) For those who satisfy (16) above, financial need would then be determined with the federal government picking up to 92% of the college costs based on a household income sliding scale basis, although nothing would preclude students from receiving state or private aid;
(18) Reward colleges and universities through enhanced student financing provided they instituted programs that placed downward pressure on college costs (remote learning, online classes, computer tutorials and credit-by-examination);
(19) If any college receives any financing of their students or any research dollars or support from the federal government, their campus must grant access to ROTC and military recruiters;
(20) Eliminate federal testing requirements although states would be allowed to retain administration of the NEAP, although the federal government would not mandate NEAP content;
(21) Cease social promotion after third grade;
(22) Allow schools to enter into public-private partnerships with industries, businesses and unions to train via apprenticeship programs academically challenged students;
(23) Make age 18 the allowable age for dropping out from school with a 16-year-old opt out provided the student enters an apprenticeship program or is gainfully employed.
At the beginning of this series, I mentioned that educational reform is an area where Republicans excel over the throw-money-at-the-problem liberal mindset of Obama and Democrats. Many of these proposals reduce the cost of education and streamline te process. I also mentioned it touches on other areas. Take the example of winning or making inroads with the Hispanic and other minority populations. The Pew Hispanic Center notes that after jobs and the economy in general, education- not immigration reform- ranks high in their priorities. What family with children- Hispanic, black, Asian or white- does not want a quality education for their children? The fact is that the current model is failing in way too many cases. And in many of those cases the problem is most acute in minority dominated school districts. As has been demonstrated, the liberal solution has been an ineffective, costly endeavor.
Look also at health care reform. Many conservatives reflexively cringe when the French system is mentioned. However, they do have a good idea now and then. For example, the government pays 100% of the cost of their medical education provided they “pledge” contractually to practice in publicly run facilities for a specific period of time. In exchange, they get a guaranteed yearly income of about $55,000. This may sound unusually low for a doctor, but they also pay no payroll taxes for the that period of employment. After they satisfy their obligation, they are free to practice privately. This system has the desired effect of (1) increasing the number of primary care physicians, (2) getting doctors to needed geographical areas, and (3) restraining health care costs.
The bottom line is that the federal government has shown itself to be a bad steward of our children’s education. For the vast majority of our nation’s history, that task laid with state and local governments, not the federal government. Like in so many other areas, once the federal government became involved, no matter how good their intentions, they fouled up the system. Years and years of increased federal spending has produced very little and while other countries have advanced and surpassed American students, we insist on maintaining the current system while Obama doubles down on a failed system. Like most things, true innovation and reform occurs at the local level. Federally-mandated one size fits all solutions are NO solutions at all. What may work in New Jersey may not necessarily work in Alabama, yet Obama and company fail to realize these facts. We can ill-afford wasteful government spending on education given our current fiscal situation no matter how rose-colored Obama sees it. If we truly want to shrink the income gap, we will seek true educational reform efforts enacted at the local level that are cost-effective and specific to the area. The federal government can help at the level of higher education through quid-pro-quo arrangements with potential, qualified high school graduates. Of course, if the government is to effectively act like a bank for higher educational costs, they must use risk-aversive criteria to ensure repayment of loans. The stakes are high, but so is the potential pay-off. And true educational reform is the one area where Republicans have a clear, articulated advantage over Democrats that cuts across ethnic or socioeconomic lines.