The Case for a 21st Century New Deal – Returning Excellence to Education with a Focus on Students & Teachers

1348727136_2096_educationAmerica used to have the world’s premier public education system that all other nations looked up to. And it was all within reach for all citizens to attend. That in turn led to a highly trained and educated workforce.

When WWII ended, President Truman passed the GI Bill so returning vets could get their education as a thank you for serving their country.

And it worked. That made the United States strong and made it the leader of the free world.

How did we do that? We stayed with the basics on education. We focused on Science, Math, Languages, the Arts, Music, and Literature. As a result, we created NASA and went to the moon, we created the Interstate Highway system, we created the world’s tallest buildings, anything we could imagine, we made happen.

And the end result of that was we earned other countries’ respect when we helped them. We helped drought-stricken countries access water, grow their own food, and learn modern agriculture techniques to avoid Dust Bowl scenarios we had back in the 1930s. JFK’s Peace Corps acted as a bridge to building friendships around the world with other countries and their people in a cultural exchange, and in return, students’ loans were forgiven in exchange for their service.

Another thing that paid dividends from the great public education system, was the standard of living went up for each new generation. That’s no mistake: it created opportunity and people took advantage of it. That’s how we attained such a high standard of living in the world.

America was number one in the world back then and was looked upon as a leader by peoples of the world. We owed a lot of that to our educational system, which made it possible. In some respects, it was a golden age.

And then it was gone in a long, slow blink of an eye, starting in the 1980s and continuing today.

Education became the darling of the privatization crowd, where they viewed it as an endless money pump of the public’s funds and a way to sell things, like computers in the classroom as a replacement for learning and developing critical thinking skills.

As we found out, privatizing public schools, colleges, and universities has had winners and losers: the investors that bankrolled all of it were the big winners, and the public & the students were the big losers. All this was framed and sold to the public under serious, thoughtful slogans like “No Child Left Behind” and “Common Core”, while attacking the teachers, unions, and cutting or shifting tax funds to private schools to starve the public school system, which resulted in higher prices in commercialized public schools.

Today, kids are graduating into a Great Depression world that they are ill-prepared to face, loaded with student loan debt , which in turn is putting America’s security and competitiveness at risk.

In other words, our “patriotic” capitalists have almost single-handedly destroyed our country and our future generations by destroying our public education system. In effect, these “banker patriots” have created a educational crisis and an epidemic across the country that affects everyone.

Can it be Fixed?
If we go back to the basics of teaching and learning with a focus on the teachers and students and involved parents, it can be fixed.

 

The NDP Proposal

In the past, education was considered a top priority in states regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans held the state house and the legislatures. Today, all states have adopted an austerity approach which includes cutting teachers, cutting school budgets, and short changing students. States like Democrat-controlled Illinois are behind in millions of dollars of payments to school districts, colleges, and universities. But worse yet, Republican-controlled states are hell-bent to eliminate the public school and university systems, and privatize them.

Our proposal is sweeping in breadth in that we consider Education too important to leave it in the hands of ideological drones at the state-level. The approach needs to be uniform and standard to fix the problem. We outline the steps we’ll take on the NDP Education page here.

To that end we propose:
1. A $50 billion increase federal funding for new & existing* public elementary schools, high schools, community colleges, state colleges & universities. Additional public schools will be built to prevent overcrowding and address underserved neighborhoods.* We should invest in public schools for the trades (ex: Building, Heating/AC, Plumbing, etc)* as an option for students that want an alternative to college.  

2. Add 500,000 teachers for public elementary & high schools, trade schools, colleges, and universities. All teachers should be degreed and certified. Some new teaching positions can be filled with graduate students in exchange for student loan forgiveness. These positions will be filled by union members.

3. Set achievement standards compared to other countries that ensure the US has collectively the best school system in the world based on skills in Science, Math, the Arts, Literature, and Languages.

4. For college students, provide loan forgiveness for all BA-related degrees in exchange for a job provided by the government.

5. For graduate students, provide government loans at a 1% rate simple loan.

6. Provide strict regulation of all private for-profit schools and ensure they meet defined academic standards and ethical behavior.

7. Provide and ensure strict regulation of all public schools and ensure they meet defined academic standards and ethical behavior.

8. Eliminate charter schools and public funding for private schools, universities, and technical/trade schools.

9. Set definable standards and expectations that public and private higher education institutions must meet for graduates, including job placement and liability for tuition refund.

10. Provide free public education for all citizens including elementary, high school and trade school / college / university.

11. For elementary and high schools, provide three meals per student per day.

12. For elementary and high schools provide extra-curricular activities including Music, the Arts, Science, Math, Languages, and Sports.

13. Provide housing and shelter for students as needed.

14. Provide standard text books based on fact, science, and history.

It’s time to tell Wall Street, the ideologues, and the privatization crowd that this is too important for the welfare and  security of our nation and its citizens to risk, and effectively their gravy train is over. Maybe we can send the money crowd back to school for a lesson in values, ethics, and patriotism.

 

* Note: updated on Feb.17th to provide clarification