2016 Caucus

July 22nd, 2015

Fiorina: How to fix our broken education system? Give every parent and student a choice and a chance.

By Carly Fiorina

Last week, Hillary Clinton gave an economic policy speech that embodied what we have come to expect from her: a bundle of contradictions and a litany of progressive prescriptions that demonstrate how deeply out-of-touch she is with the average American. She said that her policies would lift millions of hard-working Americans out of poverty and expand the middle class, but in the same breath proposed doubling down on the very same big government policies that are crushing our economy and making it so hard for people to lift themselves up.

What was even more striking about Hillary’s speech was that she chose to talk about equal opportunity in front of a school, and yet did not once mention the most important engine of equality: a world-class K-12 education. That’s because, like many liberals, she believes our education system can’t be held accountable for failing low-income students and exacerbating inequality. She believes students either have potential – or they don’t. And our schools are not to blame when poor students from broken homes don’t graduate.

Liberal policies reinforce these ideas every day. Instead of facing the reality of our broken system and the failings of big government, liberals work hard to protect the status quo and stamp out choice. They want to prevent the type of competition that we know makes our schools better. In fact, studies have shown that simply establishing a voucher program improves school quality. As in any other industry, choice and competition produce better quality.

Ironically, this approach hurts our neediest students the most, because the wealthy and the well-connected can afford to hire tutors or pay for private school if their local schools aren’t doing their job. Poor students and their families get stuck – and liberal policies ensure that they stay stuck.

Parents and students know this. Across the country, they are standing up for their right to an education. In schools from California to Louisiana, students and their families are fighting the policies that keep them trapped. They’re fighting for a chance.

I am a conservative because I know that no one of us is better than any other one of us. I know our policies work best to lift young men and women up, to arm them with the tools to realize their potential and use their God-given gifts. And I know that chief among these policies is a commitment to empower students, teachers, and parents, fix our education system, and enable students to reach their full potential.

We know what will not fix the broken education system: more federal control. We’ve tried that. We’ve poured more and more money into the Department of Education over the last 40 years and have seen the quality of education stagnate and decline. The achievement gap persists. Our students are not prepared for the 21st century economy – a fact that portends a dangerous future in a world where we have to compete for every job.

So we know that Common Core is not the answer. No matter what it was intended to be, Common Core has become simply another example of governmental overreach and ineffective, inefficient bureaucracy. We need to arm our students with 21st century skills, and you don’t do that with big bureaucracy. You do that by empowering great teachers with the ability and flexibility to teach the things our students need: risk-taking, creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

Conservatives understand what it takes to fix our education system: giving every parent and student a choice and a chance. That means fostering innovation by allowing our schools to break free of crushing regulations to experiment and try new things. There are many examples of excellent, innovative programs that are breaking the mold, producing exceptional students, and closing the achievement gap. Let’s make sure that every student has access to a school that gives them a fair shot.

Right now, Congress is taking a step in the right direction as they work toward a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act that would devolve considerable power back to the states and outlaw mandated federal standards like Common Core. Republicans in the House, however, have gone farther in their efforts to reform the system and promote equal opportuity, passing a version of the bill that allows low-income students to transfer federal dollars between school districts. The House version also puts important educational decisions back in the hands of parents and students, allowing them to opt out of federal testing requirements. As usual, liberals in the Senate are opposed to these commonsense measures because they are committed to protecting a broken status quo.

As Congress debates this bill, it is critical that American citizens like you and me communicate with the professional political class in Washington. We know what works at home and in schools because we’ve been there. We know how to help our students. We must wrest control back from the federal government and return it to where it belongs: in the hands of parents and communities who work hard every day to make sure that every child has the opportunity to strive for more.

About the Author

Carly Fiorina
Carly started out as a secretary for a small real estate business. She typed, filed paperwork and answered the phone. Eventually she would become a leader in technology, business and charity. In just fifteen years Carly went from an entry-level employee to leading AT&T's spin-off of Lucent Technologies and, later, Lucent's North American operations. In 1999, Hewlett-Packard recognized the tremendous challenges facing their company and asked Carly to be their new chief executive. As CEO of HP, she was the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business. Since leaving HP, Carly has focused on giving back. She has served in a large number of advisory and policy-making positions for national and state governments. She has also led a number of charities and nonprofits, serving as the Chairman of the American Conservative Union Foundation, which annually hosts CPAC; the Chairman of the world's largest product philanthropy organization; and the Chairman of a Christian faith-based organization that helps lift millions out of poverty worldwide

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