Home > Uncategorized > Presidential Education Platform – Part II

Presidential Education Platform – Part II

September 27, 2014

I live in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first presidential primary in the nation. The presidential election is two years from November, but because we hold the “first-in-the-nation” status NH is already being visited by potential presidential candidates from both parties who are making an effort to differentiate themselves from each other and from the candidates running on the opposite party. After working in public education in six different states for over 35 years, serving as a consultant in several VT and NH districts for the past two years, and writing this blog for nearly three years, I have some thoughts on what an ideal education platform might look like. I also have some ideas on where the funds might come from to pay for the ideas incorporated in these “planks”, which I will include at the conclusion of each of the three posts. 

I am publishing my ideal education platform over a three day period, written as if it were being presented by the candidate. I welcome any feedback or editorial comments you might want to offer. In a recent blog post Jeff Bryant asserts that “Both anecdotal information and empirical data drawn from surveys confirm that voters don’t just value public education; they want candidates who will support classroom teachers and oppose funding cuts to public schools”. If that is true in November 2014, I have reason to believe it will be even more so in 2016. Here is the section of my ideal presidential platform:

Public Education through Grade 12

  • Provide up to 50% of the funds needed to offer full day voluntary pre-kindergarten programs to children raised in poverty. Researchers, teachers, school board members, and politicians all know that the first five years of life are crucial. We’ve known this for decades but we have done nothing to help financially struggling parents provide support for their children and we have provided only minimal federal support for the health, education, and welfare of children born in the wrong zip code. If elected I will recommend to Congress that the federal government match the funds raised by any state that offers voluntary full-day pre-kindergarten programs to children born in poverty.
  • Redirect all Federal funds to constitutionally underfunded districts: Over the past several decades all but five states have been sued over inequities in school funding. At the same time federal funds have been allocated to every district in the country, even the most affluent. If elected I will take steps to see that in states where legislatures have not responded to court decisions calling for changes to the funding systems, all federal funds, including funds for handicapped children in affluent districts, will be redirected to those districts that state courts identify as being short-changed. If State legislatures fail to provide every child with an equal opportunity, the federal government has a responsibility to do so.
  • Fully fund Special Education: The late Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords championed full funding for the federal government’s share of the special education services they mandated and withdrew from his party when President Bush did not keep his promise to include full funding for special education in the No Child Left Behind legislation. Every school board member, school administrator, teacher, parents, and taxpayer wants to see this promise kept. If elected I will submit a budget that calls for full funding of the federal government’s share of special education and make certain that any legislation that increases federal special education funding will have a hold-harmless provision to make certain the additional federal funds provided to school districts are used to improve instruction.
  • Revise the Common Core: Recent actions by state legislatures (g. Texas) and local school boards (e.g. Jefferson County, CO) underscore the need for a common set of standards for education. The Common Core, underwritten by extraordinarily wealthy businessmen, was developed in response to this legitimate need. Unfortunately, the Common Core was developed without any meaningful input from classroom teachers and, to make matters worse, once it was issued the authors of the Common Core were not responsive to the revisions recommended by teachers, academics, and child psychologists. We should not scrap the Common Core because we need to make certain that students across the country learn the facts about health, science, and history. But instead of unilaterally imposing these standards from Washington, we should use the Common Core as the basis for the development of a standard curriculum for each state. If elected I will require each state to create Standards Teams to use the Common Core as the basis for the creation of a rigorous but realistic set of State standards. The Standards Teams will include curriculum content experts from state universities, representative classroom teachers, and developmental psychologists.
  • Discontinue the use of standardized tests as the primary metric for rating schools. By now parents, teachers and voters are fully aware of the misuse of standardized testing in our public schools. They realize how demoralizing this testing is for teachers, school communities, and—most dishearteningly— for students. The use of standardized achievement tests to rate schools is narrowing the curriculum by pushing out subjects that cannot be tested inexpensively. This emphasis on testing dehumanizes the school by making the preparation for tests the focal point of classroom instruction. Worst of all, the testing provides the public with misleading, meaningless, and seemingly precise data that fails to measure the true value of schooling. The test results do accomplish one thing: they help persuade the public that our public schools are failing. If elected I will suspend the testing mandated by Race To The Top and issue a waiver exempting school districts from all tests mandated by No Child Left Behind. In place of these tests, I will direct the Secretary of Education to work with practitioners, post secondary institution leaders, and business leaders to devise an accountability framework that each state will use to develop their own unique means of measuring school effectiveness. One size does not fit all in the classroom, and we’ve learned the hard way that one size does not fit all in public schools.
  • Provide high speed internet to every school and every home in America. Internet access should be viewed as a public utility and should be provided to every home and school in America. Technology holds great promise in education, but it will only be a viable tool for learning when everyone has equal access to content on the web. Furthermore, any provision or regulation that allows internet and content providers to “tier” the speed of delivery will make the digital divide and the social and economic divisions even worse than they are today. We have thousands of people who need work and thousands of homes and schools that need high-speed internet access. The solution is clear: if elected I will create jobs to provide high-speed internet service to all citizens.

How Can This Be Funded?

People ask me how we can possibly pay for these initiatives. Here’s the truth of the matter: The funds we need for education are being spent elsewhere. We must use dollars now going for wars and tax breaks for businesses to fund education for the next generation of Americans. We are paying billions of dollars a year for wars and we haven’t raised a dime to cover their costs. We are currently offering millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations and then allowing them to locate offices overseas to avoid paying income taxes. If we can raise billions for wars without raising taxes and allowing businesses to increase their profits, we should be able to raise billions for school districts to provide modern facilities, modern technology, high-speed internet connections, and MOST OF ALL, well qualified and highly dedicated teachers.  

 

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