16 Points about Education I Wish Presidential Candidates would Address Specifically

Do you listen keenly for what politicians say about education and public schools and wind up being disappointed? There is currently, and has been for the last several elections, an absence of discussion about education. Many candidates speak in generalities.

Here are the usual soundbites and what I wish would be said instead.

1. We should respect teachers and pay them more.


What we have seen is an erosion of the professional development of teachers, not to mention the demolition of teacher tenure in states like California.

Let’s improve the schools of education and require a teaching degree from an accredited university along with strict state credentials. No more diploma mills and fast-track prep. Our students need real teachers who are fully prepared to teach, and we need to discuss the important meaning of tenure to the teaching profession.

Teach for America will become Teacher Aides for America. Let young people out of college work under the supervision of fully degreed and prepared teachers who have been in the field for at least five years. If they then choose teaching they will receive assistance to return to school to become real teachers.

2. Public schools fail and we need competition—charter schools.


We have had charter schools for 23 years and there is no proof they are better than traditional public schools—many have worse results. Let’s put a hold on new charter school development and investigate every single charter school to ensure they are rejecting no children and are making legitimate progress.

We will also penalize those charter company operators who siphon money from the state and fail.

3. We need choice.


Any school that accepts funding in the form of a voucher will have to demonstrate beforehand that they provide a better education compared to the traditional public school from where a student originated. There will also be consistent monitoring.

4. Students need to be prepared to compete in the 21st century.


We are going to bring more jobs home to America and pay workers fairly (living wage). We will encourage young people to pursue careers they are interested in and provide them with career education and support in high school and beyond.

We will help them find their vocational strengths in high school. In order to do this we will bring back a well-balanced curriculum that includes the arts and which starts from an early age.

We will include good vocational-technical education.

5. Common Core State Standards are great!


Common Core State Standards are controversial and were never tested. We need to revisit how they were developed, why they were created, and whether they are as good as many say. We need to weigh the two sides of opinion and explore standards in general and the role the state and federal government have played in creating standards.

We need independent research studies done on the Common Core pronto!

6. There is too much standardized testing.


We know many parents are concerned about high-stakes testing because there is too much of it and it is designed to fail students, fire teachers and close schools.

Let’s put a moratorium on testing and let school districts, teachers and parents determine what tests are necessary to help their children succeed…and that includes testing tied to Common Core.

Furthermore, no child should be punished for not taking a test. Parents should have the right to reject any testing they don’t think is appropriate without repercussions.

Every local school board should bring teachers together with parents to discuss the meaning of school accountability. After all, who are public schools supposed to be accountable to?

7. Make four year public colleges free.


How do other countries provide public college tuition free? Let us have a task force to examine this refreshing idea. We did this once in California, so why can’t we do it again in this country? And we will also look into giving parents and students who have been paying for college in recent years some kind of rebate. Yes. Education is that important.

8. Students attend dropout factories.


How many students are dropping out and how much of this perception is due to bad record keeping in the school districts? Why do students drop out? Let’s ask the students who drop out how we could encourage them to stay in school.

9. We need universal preschool.


Universal preschool has been used by politicians to garner support for years. Let’s get down to business and increase developmentally friendly preschools especially for the poor—which include more children who were once in the middle class. Let’s revisit Head Start and see how we can help increase supportive early public childhood education. Education for the poor should include necessary wraparound services, and no child should be denied health care.

10. We will reinvent education.


Our public schools have served us well for many years. But the defunding of schools since the early 1980s and the involvement of big business in the corporatization of schooling needs to be investigated. While business has a vested interest in public schooling, and philanthropy is welcome, corporate venture philanthropy should not be allowed. Public schools are great democratic institutions that belong to the people. They should not be turned into businesses.

11. We need new leaders in education.


Anyone who is a leader in education, overseeing public schooling, will have to have been a professional teacher for at least 5 years and have earned a degree in the area of their expertise. Gone will be the days of public policy wonks and MBAs who never professionally set foot in a classroom, running our schools.

12. We need to stop throwing money at schools.


While we need to audit state and local school districts better and question selective federal grant programs that do not serve all children, we also need better transparency of both charter and private schools. But the reality is that public schools have been defunded for many years. And tax dollars are being thrown at untested programs that do not benefit all children.

13. We need to put the best teachers on the Internet.


While technology can supplement the classroom and be a good resource for teachers and students, it is not a proven mechanism to replace public schools and public school teachers. We still need good public schools where children get to socialize and learn to be tolerant of one another. And real teachers still matter greatly.


I’m sure you can think of other comments about education that you would like to hear expanded or where you disagree. Feel free to comment on any of the above.  I would also like a discussion about the following areas which seem ignored:

14. Special education,
15. The loss of the arts,
16. School facility overcrowding and danger.


bailey-489_0_0-300x199Nancy Bailey is an education activist and a former special education teacher.  Her book is titled Misguided Education Reform: Debating the Impact on Students.  Her blog is http://nancyebailey.com. Catch up with her on twitter @NancyEBailley1

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