In math class they teach us about compound interest: how if we invest early, and keep investing, our money will grow beyond our wildest dreams. There is no better place to invest in our country’s future than education, and yet somehow we consistently fail to target education with our substantial resources. We must prioritize our schools, because even though they don’t affect our bottom line, the compounding benefits they provide will exceed our wildest dreams.
- Restore the role of Teacher to the respect it deserves.
- Offer universal education programs that span a lifetime.
- Solve the student loan crisis.
- Create safer, more tolerant schools that foster smarter, more empathetic students.
The quality of an education ties directly to the quality of the teachers, and the quality of teachers ties directly to their quality of life. If we want our teachers to be able to provide their best, we need to create a system that allows it. Teachers have one of the highest stress professions, on par with nurses and doctors1. A fifth of our nation’s teachers work second jobs to make a living, while correcting homework and building lesson plans for over twenty students per class2 3. When the average teacher salary has decreased since 1999, and over 70% of our teachers are female, addressing our teachers’ pay goes beyond serving their well-being and enhancing education–it is a crucial element of eliminating the gender wage gap.
While providing our teachers with the backing they deserve, we need to make sure as many people have access to them as possible, starting in early childhood. This is not a pipe dream, nor does it come from an unreasonable place: the economic benefit of Universal Pre-K is approximated at $83 billion4. Universal Pre-K both increases parental labor force participation, and creates an offsetting decrease in use of public assistance. Each $1 invested in Universal Pre-K is estimated to create $2.60 more5.
Obviously we can’t stop caring once preschool is over. Our K-12 and Postsecondary education is in massive need of overhaul. Schools are held back by restrictive standardized testing requirements that hold back students and teachers alike6 7; the only guarantee we get from college is debt, yet many jobs require that applicants have degrees even when the job doesn’t truly need it8. By reshaping free public college education, much like the G.I. Bill did for over 7 million veterans after World War II, we can revitalize the American middle class and create economic and societal benefit that far outweighs the cost.
Finally, our students deserve the highest levels of safety, tolerance, and well-being, regardless of where they live. This means re-shifting school discipline to a restorative justice method, which has led to sizable reductions in violence disorderly conduct (up to 65%9), and teaching “soft” skills such as empathy and conflict resolution, so students are equipped with multiple forms of intelligence upon graduation. Similar approaches have been successful internationally10, and are worth integrating here, even if in a pilot approach.
How We Plan to Do It
Restore Respect for Teachers:
- Augment teachers’ salaries so they don’t have to work second jobs, via Universal Basic Income as part of our Floor to Stand On initiative.
- Solve our public schools’ over-reliance on local property taxes for funding, increasing stability and equality nationwide11 12.
- Reduce national standardized testing and their impact on teacher evaluations. Teaching to a test benefits no one.
- Create a national Universal Pre-K program.
- Offer free public college and trade schools.
- Fund continuing education, including free coding boot camps.
Solve the Student Loan Crisis:
- Explore one-time student debt forgiveness.
- Reduce the over-reliance on college degrees (degree inflation) by setting minimum standards for when a job can require one13.
- End the political influence of student debt collectors via campaign finance reform.
Safer, More Tolerant Schools:
- Encourage schools to focus on restorative justice measures, rather than punitive ones like suspension and expulsion that leave at-risk students even further behind.
- Support H.R. 7848, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, which would replace school officer programs with more proven effective counseling.
Encouraging Human-Centered Schooling:
- Guide schools to implement “SEL” curricula, teaching emotional intelligence skills like interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, mental well-being and empathy.
- Mandate inclusion of financial literacy education in public schools.
- Ensure that physical, health, arts and music education do not fall prey to budget cuts.
- Prioritize robust special education programs in public schools.