I believe in School Choice. I believe in removing Common Core. However, I don’t believe that School Choice should lead to funding cuts for our public schools. We can’t leave behind the students whose parents cannot afford to send them to private schools. While my own public education experience at Harrison High School in West Lafayette was a phenomenal one, I also understand that this isn’t the case in many of our public schools around the country. I believe we need to increase technical training and apprenticeships in our high schools to fill the large number of job openings that require “skilled labor.” Right now, we live in a world where children are told that they won’t ever get a job if they don’t go to college. That is categorically untrue. The jobs that need filled most often, today, are technical and special skills jobs that we are doing a poor job of training our youth for.
I would like to lead a shift in certifications, degrees, and how students entering the job market obtain those. I will reach out to businesses who will publically honor professional certifications, especially from online institutions, and change their Human Resource requirements on external job applications and internal promotion requirements. This needs to be paired with a reorientation on trade jobs. Interest groups from both sides, like the Chamber of Commerce representing businesses, and trade unions representing labor, need to be given contributing roles in committees that develop new regulation and incentives for encouraging high school students to go pursue trade skills (like electrical work, automotive repair, etc.) early in their public education. Ultimately, this is an issue we’ve created over time. Anybody promising one massive overhaul is either lying or delusional. We need to band together—representatives, interest groups that frequently disagree, and businesses—to focus on things we all want: skilled workers who can happily provide for themselves and their families.
I would also like to commission a committee to explore something similar to the military’s G.I. Bill for public service (i.e. College paid for after 4-6 years of Americorps, Teach for America, etc.). I don’t believe in “free college for everyone.” That concept is absurdly socialist in nature and fiscally impossible. However, rewarding those that aspire to serve the country makes a whole lot of sense. If you serve our country in the military, you get free college. Why do you not get free college if you similarly dedicate years of your life to improving other people’s lives and serving within our own borders? I believe in my heart that we need to do more to encourage young people to serve, and then honor them with opportunity for it. The best part is: the return on investment. Rather than giving people money, we’re investing in skills and increasing work capacity. In the meantime, younger people can be working in communities, helping other people be more productive, healthy, and happy.
Regarding standardized testing: I have a love-hate relationship. I think we need to incorporate a hybrid model of evaluation, adjustable by the student and the institution seeking the students’ information. Standardized testing provides a marker for stakeholders (teachers, government, parents, etc.) as to the relative performance of a school district. We need to evaluate our students, and test scores based on non-standardized tests aren’t reliable due to the assumption that every single teacher giving his or her own test will be providing tests of the same difficulty level, and that’s simply not true. However, not everyone learns the same way, and not everyone can perform on a written test as well as they could on an oral or mechanical exam. One of the downsides of standardized tests is that it creates an incentive to “teach the test,” rather than encouraging critical thinking and risk-taking (qualities I’m proud to encourage as an American). Standardized tests also don’t measure everything. If your family can’t afford dinner, then you had to walk to school in the morning, a math test will likely not turn out well. Just as relevant, a standardized test doesn’t measure if you’re a leader in your club or sports team, or a volunteer in your community. I may be biased, but I appreciate and value the United States Military Academy’s model for evaluating potential cadets: They examine your holistic record. Everything from family income, test scores, musical skill, sports/club participation, community leadership, and volunteer efforts. I believe this is the evaluation model for the future and one I will encourage my colleagues to provide to their state’s universities.
Finally, I fully intend to sit down with as many teachers as possible. Any debate about education requires many diverse points of view, and I look forward to helping to empower teachers across our state.