[StBernard] Why Education Reform Matters

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Apr 10 21:13:36 EDT 2012

Friends -

It is almost trite to declare this presidential election to be the most
important of our lifetimes, but that makes it no less true. Voters will be
selecting a candidate not based simply on speaking ability or charisma, but
rather will be faced with two very different views of our country and the
role of the federal government in our lives.

President Obama has fully embraced in rhetoric and policies the Occupy Wall
Street movement, focused on class warfare, resentment of success, envy, and
dividing up a shrinking economic pie. The Republican nominee will instead
offer a contrasting vision of a limited federal government, the expansion of
individual liberty, and the preservation of the American Dream for our

We in America have never promised equality of outcomes, but rather equality
of opportunity. We do not believe, as the Occupy protestors suggest, that
you are entitled to your neighbor's property, but rather you are entitled to
the opportunity to work hard and succeed. America, more than any other
nation, has embodied the principle that a child's last name, circumstances
of birth, or parents' socio-economic status should not determine his or her
future fate as an adult. We do not embrace caste systems or hereditary
rulers commonly found in other societies.

Countless American parents have told their children they could grow up to
become President of the United States, start their own businesses, become
doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, or whatever they wanted if they just
worked hard enough in school. And many of them grow up to do those very
things every day. Every mother dreams her child will do even better than she
has, and if we can stop President Obama from mortgaging our children's
future, we will not be the first generation in America's history to pass
along fewer opportunities than we inherited from our parents.

Education reform - ensuring every child in America has the opportunity get a
great education and be taught by a great teacher - is the foundation for the
Republican vision for America and also for preserving the American Dream.

Republican policymakers, and indeed our presidential candidates,
traditionally focus on cutting taxes and government spending, promoting
traditional family values, and supporting our military and a strong foreign
policy. Those are all good, safe, worthy conservative goals. Republican
officials have often devoted less attention to issues like health care and
education, viewing these as more naturally Democratic concerns. I believe
that division of labor is old thinking that our party needs to discard.

Newly elected reform minded Republican governors, like Rick Scott in
Florida, Bill Haslam in Tennessee, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Susana Martinez
in New Mexico, Robert Bentley in Alabama, John Kasich in Ohio, and many
others, have rightfully started their terms by making education reform a top
priority. I believe this represents an important commitment to ensuring
America's continued economic and military supremacy, as well as to the
continuation of the American Dream for our children. I also, incidentally,
believe this debate properly takes place at the local rather than the
federal level; I am certainly not arguing either for No Child Left Behind or
its successor.

Improving our states' education systems will benefit our children both in
the classroom and also later in life. Eric Hanushek, of the Hoover
Institution at Stanford, has documented that students will earn thousands of
dollars more over their careers if they are educated by great teachers; a
recent study by Harvard and Columbia researchers shows that students are
more likely to attend college and less likely to become pregnant as
teenagers if taught by an effective fourth grade teacher. Given the obvious
stakes, it is startling how often teacher unions and other defenders of the
status quo simply demand more time and more money, ignoring the urgency
demanded by the fact that our children only grow up once and have only one
chance to get a great education.

Unlike President Obama, I am unapologetic about making the case for American
exceptionalism - I proudly declare we are blessed to live in the greatest
nation in the history of the world. However, I also acknowledge we live in
an increasingly competitive global economy, and that American students no
longer rank first amongst their peers from other developed nations in
educational achievement. We must embrace education reform: first, by
changing our policies to identify, recruit, train, retain, and reward great
teachers and second, by empowering parents with real choices so that no
child is trapped in a failing school and making the dollars follow the child
instead of making the child follow the dollars.

I have no doubt that we will rank number one again in educational
comparisons, and that this century, like the previous one, will belong to
America. Our best days are ahead of us, and we must reject the "managing
the decline" approach inherent in the class warfare rhetoric offered by the
other side. But, education reform is central to the Republican view of the
American Dream.


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