Leader to Leader

Leader to Leader

Friday, February 8, 2008


America’s strategic and economic dominance over the last fifty years has been driven in large part by our preeminence in the fields of science and engineering. Discovery and invention have fueled business and helped create entirely new industries, from gene therapy to semiconductors, which in turn have created high paying jobs. But we cannot continue to be competitive as a nation if our citizens are not educated in the skills and the trades that matter in the global marketplace. On this front, our schools are failing our young people. Average New Jerseyans understand this, which is why a woman in Mercer County who had been recently laid off told me that she was not worried about herself. Instead, she was most concerned about her 8th grade granddaughter because the local schools were not teaching her the things she would need to know to find a job.

China and India are rapidly closing the gap between us and them. China now graduates four times the number of engineers as the U.S., and India graduates a million more students from college than we do. Yet we in America are wedded to an outdated and obsolete education system. Simply put, we are not doing the things necessary to make sure that little girl in Mercer County will have the tools to succeed.

If we are to remain competitive – let alone retain our position of dominance – these trends must be reversed. To do this, we will need to break free of the same tired arguments we have been hearing for decades. We need to radically reform our education system so every child in New Jersey and America has access to the best education in the world
The future is now for American children!!!

Early Education. First, we must make pre-kindergarten education the norm in this country so that all children, from the age of 3, attend quality schools. The data is irrefutable: the best long-term predictor of student achievement is the quality of education a child receives from birth to age five. The brain develops in remarkable ways during that period. As a first step towards this national program, we have introduced the P-KOPS bill, which places qualified pre-kindergarten teachers into high need areas so that all children – no matter their families’ economic situation – have access to quality pre-K schooling.

Character Education. Second, we need to ensure that our kids learn more than just how to be good students; we also need to teach them how to be good people. The 3 R’s are no longer enough. Now, we need to teach our children the 4 R’s – reading, writing, arithmetic and how to do what’s right. This is why Brooks will support the PRIDE Act to promote citizenship and character education in our public and private schools.

10,000 New Teachers to Teach 1,000,000 Kids. Third, we need to recruit 10,000 new teachers, which will help 1 million students. Brooks supports the 21st Century Innovation Act, which creates competitive 4-year scholarships for students to obtain college degrees in science, engineering and math in exchange for a commitment to teach in public K-12 schools for at least 5 years. Our schools are crying out for qualified teachers, and it is time to place the full resources of the federal government behind this effort.

Strengthen Skills of Existing Teachers. Fourth, we should help existing teachers sharpen their skills through ongoing education and summer training seminars. Our 21st Century Innovation Act will help 250,000 current K-12 teachers by funding summer institutes and part-time master’s degree programs.

Expanding Access to College Education. Fifth, we need to help every young person in America who wants to attend college achieve their dream. The only qualification for getting a college education should be whether or not a young person is smart enough – cost should no longer be a barrier. Our Service for School Act will pay up to four years of tuition for any student in America in exchange for that student’s commitment to fore go Social Security benefits until they reach the age of 70 and an agreement to participate in a national service program, such as active military, the National Guard and Reserves, Peace Corps, or AmeriCorps. By harnessing our young people’s civic pride and volunteerism, we can give them the tools they need to take on the challenges of tomorrow. A significant challenge confronts us, but we can and we will overcome it. Time and again, Americans have shown the strength and ability to meet any challenge. I have full confidence that we will build on our success of the last century and continue to innovate and lead in this one.

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