Build and support a thriving education system
The strength of the economy tomorrow depends on the strength of education today. In our high-tech economy, finding a good job depends more and more on having a good education. While our country has some of the world’s greatest universities, millions of students finish school with weak reading and math skills. Going to college keeps getting more and more expensive, while drop out rates are rising.
Evan McMullin believes that by empowering families and communities we can make sure that every child in America has access to a high-quality education. Mandates from Washington are not the way to reform education. The Obama administration’s heavy-handed effort to impose Common Core standards has demonstrated the need for a different approach. Meanwhile, federal loan programs are driving up the cost of a college education while poorly designed regulations prevent the emergence of new options for students.
Hillary Clinton’s approach to education is to spend more taxpayer dollars on a failing status quo. At first, she understood this was a bad idea. During the primary she explained, “I don't believe in free college, because every expert that I have talked to says, look, how will you ever control the costs?” Yet now Clinton says that public universities and community colleges should be free for most students. The estimated cost of her plan is $60-$75 billion per year. Instead of solving the problem, it just shifts the burden of debt from students to taxpayers.
When it comes to education, Donald Trump has richly earned his reputation as a con artist. His unaccredited Trump University preyed upon the aspirations of hardworking individuals, charging outrageous prices for worthless seminars. Instructors even used high-pressure sales tactics and even encouraged students to take on debt in order to afford the bogus sessions. All in all, Trump scammed about 10,000 Americans out of an estimated $40 million dollars.
Reforming K-12 Education
American students have benefited greatly from a tradition of local control and decentralization for schools. However, there continue to be many poorly performing schools even in cities with very high levels of per-student funding. For example, New York City spends more than $20,000 per student, while Boston and Baltimore spend $15,000.
In struggling school systems, charter schools have become a powerful engine of innovation because they are not weighed down by the intrusive regulations that burden so many traditional public schools. Not every charter school succeeds, but charters as a whole are finally giving meaningful choices to parents whose children were once condemned to failing institutions. Still, access to charter schools is insufficient; right now, there are more than one million children on charter school waiting lists.
Students who do not have access to charters should have the option of vouchers that enable them to attend schools farther away. By showing that schools cannot afford to take their students for granted, these alternatives should foster a healthy competition between schools to provide the best education.
Without great teachers, there can be no great schools. The teaching profession continues to attract hundreds of thousands of the most committed, caring, and talented college graduates. Schools should not hesitate to reward teachers on the basis of merit, in order to ensure that they stay in public schools. There also needs to be greater accountability for the small number of teachers who fail in the classroom or even abuse their students. Regrettably, teachers unions continue to protect these few failures instead of focusing on what is best for students.
Schools also need high standards to ensure that every student gets a first-class education. Common Core began as a state-driven effort to raise the bar for K-12 education, yet the Obama administration used federal funds to compel implementation. Rather than accept criticism, the administration sought to brand Common Core opponents as ignorant or worse. A believer in empowering both local and state government, Evan opposes Common Core and the heavy-handed effort to force it on hesitant communities.
Finally, Evan is a strong supporter of the right to educate one’s children at home. He would encourage states to make sure that home-schooled students are able to participate in school sports and electives so that all students are able to benefit from these activities.
Reforming Higher Education
Going to college or getting advanced training after high school is the surest path to a good job and a middle-class lifestyle. However, misguided federal policies are only increasing the number of students who leave college without a degree while being saddled with heavy debts.
By handing out more loans, grants, and credits in response to rising tuition, the federal government signals to universities that Washington will pick up the tab for runaway cost growth. Even worse, the government doesn’t hold universities accountable for students’ graduation rates or ability to repay their loans. To make sure that universities have skin in the game, they should have to repay a portion of the debt incurred by students who fail to graduate or default on their loans. To ensure that interests rates remain reasonable, the government has tied them to the yield of 10-year Treasury notes while capping the maximum possible rate at 8.25 percent, a policy that Evan supports.
Prospective students also deserve to know more about the institutions to which they apply; however, a 2008 law prohibits the federal government from collecting the information these students need. For example, students should be able to compare the graduation rates, post-college earnings, and loan default rates for different programs at a wide range of universities.
Prospective students also deserve more and better choices in the field of post-secondary education. In addition to two- and four-year colleges, students should have access to high-quality technical schools, online programs, and work-based learning in the private sector. However, the current model of accreditation makes it extremely difficult for students at non-traditional programs to qualify for federal aid. This prevents competition, which means that traditional colleges and universities don’t face any consequences for cost growth or poor student outcomes.
The principles of education reform are the same for K-12 and higher education. Students and families should have more choices. Schools should have high standards and be accountable for students’ performance. State and local governments should lead the way, while intrusive and misguided federal interventions should be rolled back. That is Evan McMullin’s vision for an education system that prepares American students to succeed in the economy of the future.