By Gigi Cook
Last week, President Obama announced U.S. high school graduation rates are going up again, marking the fifth straight year of upward progress. It’s sobering to realize however, while more likely to graduate, American 15-year-olds score below the majority of their peers in the industrialized world in math, science, and reading. Recalling when American education was once considered the envy of the entire world, how does one get over falling so far behind? Most educators agree there is no magical overnight overhaul, but in this election year there are two distinct platforms being presented as “the best next step.”
Pressing issues in the conversation on education in America start with some of the most important persons in the school system, the teachers. How can America recruit and retain the very best teachers? How should they be compensated and will their compensation have any ties to the performance of the children in their classrooms?
In addition to teacher concerns, disputes over standards, budgets, and accountability sideline many possible solutions for educational reform. For example, how important is it to balance the funds spent between wealthy and poor school districts? Should schools be held responsible for failing test scores? And of utmost importance; WHO determines the standards for accountability – the federal government or individual states?
Attempts to answer these questions have resulted in the controversial No Child Left Behind program and the Common Core debate. Going forward, the government will play a significant role in re-shaping American education. Both major party presidential candidates press for your vote specifically on education issues.
In a nutshell, Democrat Hillary Clinton opposes connecting teacher evaluations and test outcomes to pay and supports universal preschool. And when it comes to higher education, she is for reforming the student loan process and providing tuition free college for qualified populations.
Republican Donald Trump supports returning education policy to individual states and doing away with Common Core education standards. He supports school choice.
The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers union, endorses Hillary Clinton. Her platform opposes teacher evaluations being tied to student test outcomes and supports the Obama Administration’s plan to eliminate what she deems “unnecessary” standardized testing. She plans to initiate a new student loan policy decreasing the indebtedness of college graduates. And for families with a combined income of $125,000 or less, in-state public colleges could be attended tuition free. Clinton proposes a $350 billion plan for higher education reform. She also voiced her view of charter schools as “supplementary education and not a substitute for public school.”
Representing the Republican platform, Donald Trump, speaking in Ohio, laid out a student loan repayment plan: “We would cap repayment for an affordable portion of the borrower’s income, 12.5 percent”. He went on to call school choice the “new civil rights issue of our time.” He also came out in support for merit pay for teachers, saying, “I support rewarding our best teachers instead of the failed tenure system that rewards bad teachers”.
Campaigning at the American Legion National Convention, Trump highlighted his goal of promoting patriotism in U.S. schools. “I want our kids to learn the incredible achievements of America’s history, its institutions, and its heroes. We will stop apologizing for America. We will be united by our common culture, values and principles – becoming One American Nation: One country, under one constitution, saluting one American Flag. The flag all of you helped to protect and preserve.”
For faithful followers of Christ there are many issues to consider in this election cycle: the appointment of Supreme Court justices, defense of religious liberty, the fight to protect the unborn, our friendship with Israel, resolving racial tensions, national security, and the preservation of limited government and a free market. Education may seem to be one of the background issues, but the training of America’s future leaders and citizens is an important issue deserving your prayer and attention.
• God will bless America’s next generation of leaders through good schools and quality education.
• Voters will choose the best platform to restore America’s schools to health and excellence.
• America’s education system will be led by people of integrity and wisdom.
Gigi Cook's work has been featured in major radio markets, media publicationsand corporate leadership programs. She is a writer, speaker, and program facilitator with a Master’s Degree in psychology. Residing in Salt Lake City, Gigi enjoys her family, her work, and restoring American Antiques.
Pray the Vote is a nationwide movement to “encourage informed prayer” for the 2016 Presidential elections.
It is based on the belief that, when God’s people cry out to Him in earnest and heartfelt prayer, He will bless our nation in ways we cannot foresee. Our prayers open a window for God to work across our land.
Your prayers will change the world.
8 ELECTION DAY