Championing Public Education
For years – decades – we’ve talked about how education is the key that enables a child to become the person they dream of being. How every child should have the opportunity for a world-class education. Education is the best investment in our youth and in our collective future as a society.
But the reality of education today – in the country and in Virginia - has been far different. For a generation we’ve chipped away at the creativity and individualism in the classroom that could spark interest in a child who would otherwise just fall behind. We’ve focused on teaching kids to test well, even if they aren’t learning how to excel.
In part, that’s the legacy of “No Child Left Behind,” a system that’s more focused on grading the teachers than on inspiring our kids. While the intentions behind the program were good – to create an equitable, measurable educational system – it evaluates students on their ability to take standardized tests and teachers on how well they teach to the test. It negates the ability of the child who learns best by imagining and doing and thwarts the teacher who can inspire.
It can extinguish the spark we want to nurture. We must stop teaching to the test and, instead, teach to the child.
This approach takes resources and a commitment to funding education – from prekindergarten through college and beyond. And that’s a commitment we haven’t been willing to make in recent years. Our state ranks below the national average in spending per pupil at the elementary and secondary school levels.
We’ve also carved away at our collective support for Virginia’s world-class higher educational system. We generate the second-highest college graduation rate in the country, and in 2017 SmartAsset ranked Virginia number 1 for Higher Education. But we rank near the bottom in state support per student. In other words, if you can pay for it, you’ll get a great education, but don’t apply if you need financial help.
If you’re pro-business, you should be pro-government spending on education. A Virginia Business Higher Education Council study shows that the Virginia public higher education system adds $36 billion annually to gross state product, supports more than 167,000 jobs and produces nearly $2 in new state revenue for every state dollar spent. Equally important, it can launch the next generation of kids out of poverty and into good-paying jobs.
We must provide the opportunity for every child, regardless of ability to pay, to continue their education beyond high school - whether it’s at a university, community college or trade school. And we need to prepare our students for this beginning in elementary school.
The money we spend on education is a critical investment in our kids and in our future economic growth.