WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 10, 2011 -
There are few issues more important to the strength of the nation’s economy than education. In most cases, an individual's success in the workforce depends upon his or her success in the classroom.
Each month the national unemployment data reflect this reality. While today 9 percent of the workforce is unemployed, 14.2 percent of adults without a high school diploma are looking for a job. The numbers are more startling when compared to college graduates, who are currently experiencing an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.
The challenges brought on by an inadequate education aren't just reserved for the unemployed; they extend to those with a job as well. In 2009, workers without a high school diploma earned less than $23,000, while workers with a bachelor’s degree earned nearly three times that amount. These statistics remind us of the challenges facing workers who do not succeed academically. Without a doubt, education is critical to the strength of America’s workforce and economy.
That is why the current state of our nation’s education system is so troubling. Only 69 percent of students earn their high school diploma. According to the Nation’s Report Card, an eighth grade student has only a 30 percent chance of being able to read at grade level. Reading and math scores for teens on the verge of graduation remain largely unchanged since 1973. Students who do graduate are often unprepared to compete in the workforce. Employers continue to express their concerns that new workers too often lack basic skills in reading, writing, and math.
As we consider these disturbing trends, we can’t ignore that over the last 45 years the federal government has become increasingly involved in the day to day operations of our schools.
We have all heard a teacher or parent describe how rules imposed by Washington often stifle innovative solutions taking place in the classroom or undermine the freedom to choose a school that best fits a child's needs. We can no longer accept the status quo that says Washington has all the answers and more money will fix a broken education system.
Since 1980, federal spending on education has increased by 425 percent yet student achievement has failed to improve. Clearly, the current system isn’t working. It is time we stopped measuring our commitment to education by the dollars we spend.
The good news is that the tide is turning. Dedicated reformers, concerned citizens, and gifted filmmakers have sparked a debate that is spreading across the country. Their efforts have awakened a desire for a new approach to education in the country. State and local communities are moving forward with innovative solutions to improve accountability, parental involvement, results-based hiring, and school choice. Washington should not stand in the way of these and other meaningful reforms that improve the quality of education for our children.
That is why we are here today. Congress must understand the challenges facing our education system, hear the concerns of state and local leaders intimately involved with what goes on in the classroom, and begin to chart a different course that ensures the innovation and accountability being driven at the local level can succeed.