A Good Start ... for a Great Finish
"Based on research in neuroscience and in child development, there is no longer any doubt that the years from birth to age 5 are when children develop the essential foundations — linguistic, cognitive, emotional, social and physical — for all subsequent growth and learning." -Nancy Grasmick, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, 1991-2011
America's Noblest Endeavor
The Founding Fathers recognized that our democracy would fail without an enlightened public. By 2020, American industry will need 125 million highly educated workers. Our education system will only provide 50 million ... and we'll be short 90,000 doctors. At the end of the day, America only educates about half of its children, while the children of the world come here in droves to attend our universities. Our dropout rate is a pandemic that must be cured. The closest thing we have to a silver bullet is PRE-SCHOOL.
The Way Forward
Dropping out is the final act of frustrated kids who cannot compete -- too many because they simply didn't get a fair start. African-American children are two times more likely to attend a pre-school program than Latino children -- white children three times more likely. An exhaustive long-term study published in Science on July 15, 2011 found that “by age 28, former preschool students had higher educational levels, incomes, socioeconomic status, and rates of health insurance coverage—and lower rates of substance abuse and legal problems—than the kindergarten-only students.” Promoting universal, high-quality preschool for 4yo's is the greatest bang we can get for our education buck (HR 555). Please check out www.preknow.org
Getting Smarter with College Aid
We're pouring lots of money into college aid. In principle, that's a great idea! But we need to spend it more wisely. Historically, government-backed loans were distributed through banks; but in 2009 the business was entirely absorbed by the federal government. Sallie Mae, the school-loan equivalent of the housing industry’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reports $757 billion-worth of outstanding loans including more than $112 billion loaned in just 2011. Also, over the past five years, Pell Grant expenditures have nearly doubled.
We lose out when students get aid and fail to finish their course work -- a significant (and growing) problem. That's why I'm in favor of re-directing a portion of our college aid through small business owners in the form of matching grants for their employees. The most dedicated students in the world are the ones who have worked for a bit and understand why they're back in school. Having employers select deserving recipients and then put some of their own skin in the game will produce a winning scenario for professional development and greatly reduce the amount of college aid we waste.
Lowering the Dropout Rate