At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy. The decisions our leaders make about education in the coming years will shape our future for generations to come. Obama and Biden are committed to meeting this challenge with the leadership and judgment that has been sorely lacking for the last eight years. Their vision for a 21st century education begins with demanding more reform and accountability, coupled with the resources needed to carry out that reform; asking parents to take responsibility for their children’s success; and recruiting, retaining, and rewarding an army of new teachers to fill new successful schools that prepare our children for success in college and the workforce. The Obama-Biden plan will restore the promise of America’s public education, and ensure that American children again lead the world in achievement, creativity and success.
President Obama’s education initiatives are broad-sweeping and on the mark. Yesterday he presented his plan to make college more affordable and student loans more available to students who really need them.
Back on March 10, he described his “5 Pillars of Education Reform”. His speech on education highlighted his k-12 agenda, where he intends to
- Reform No Child Left Behind
- Support High-Quality Schools and Close Low-Performing Charter Schools
- Make Math and Science Education a National Priority
- Address the Dropout Crisis:
- Expand High-Quality Afterschool Opportunitie
- Support College Outreach Programs
- Support College Credit Initiatives
- Support English Language Learners
- Recruit Teachers
- Prepare Teachers
- Retain Teachers
- Reward Teachers
If we go there– if we improve educational access and opportunity at the pre-school level as well as the K-12 and post-secondary levels, he can leverage the reform he is looking for. At least in some small degree. The problem is, for all the detail and ambition, the Obama education vision still does not reach far enough. His education plan is still missing one critical component– without which– the success of all these other reforms will be compromised. Partly because this list of initiatives has already been implemented. There are examples and best practices of these approaches all over the country, and yet, the academic achievement gap persists.
So what is that one, profoundly revolutionary change that will finally transform public education in America?
Universal health care.
Just as his plan to revive the economy hinges on health care, so too does any significant hopes of educational reform.
It’s the health care. And the reason is quite simple:
American schoolchildren should not have to suffer through illness or medical trauma while our health care system shuts their family out from the treatment they require and deserve.
They should not have to come to school with teeth rotting in their heads for lack of dental care.
They should not fall behind in reading (never to catch up), simply because they have undiagnosed vision problems that are often easily corrected with glasses.
They should not suffer in silence, as a first grade child at El Milagro did two year ago, while we negotiated for hearing aids with Childrens Hospital.
They should not have to endure the physical discomfort nor the social alienation associated with childhood obesity.
They should not have to manage the debilitating side effects of poor nutrition or childhood hunger.
They should not be denied access to mental health treatment, or counseling, or therapists or specialists available to other students whose parents have complete health coverage.
Learning is hard enough to do for students, especially in a climate of ever-tightening accountability. But where there are inequities in academic outcomes, we almost inevitably find families in economic distress. While parents struggle to maintain their homes, keep their jobs, make a living, make a life… they should at least have the confidence that the health care needs of their children are provided for.
If President Obama can deliver on the promise of universal health care for our children, and if public schools fully harness the power of that reform, we will see a significant reduction in the academic achievement gap that has perpetuated the inequities across socio-economic levels for decades.
The Obama doctrine on education states:
At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in a global economy.
“Preparing our children academically to compete in a global economy”, hinges on their ability to come to a safe school, to focus, to work hard, to believe in their own capacity as citizen-learners. It hinges on their physical, emotional and mental health. In fact, if he can provide all of our students with HEALTH CARE, President Obama will prove to be the most influential leader in public education in our lifetimes.