Investment in education is key to the economic vitality of the nation and the region. As we move away from becoming a manufacturing nation, most jobs will come from a highly skilled labor force. Currently, the U.S. must hire 227,000 scientists and engineers from abroad to keep up with the demand in the U.S. economy.
In order to maintain a competitive economy, we must focus on constant technological innovation in every sector. We must raise a generation capable of producing these ideas and advances that will help us maintain our competitive advantage in the world marketplace.
Three areas that I will make a top priority if elected to Congress:
Increase access to preschool education. Currently in El Paso, there is a large gap between the education level desired by employers and the education level of the workforce. This gap can be bridged with greater access to early education.
Low-income students, particularly those with limited English, begin their school years at a severe disadvantage when they lack exposure to a preschool education. Decades of research has shown that students who attend preschool earn significantly higher income, attain high levels of education, and commit fewer criminal acts than their peers. We must create a pathway for all children to begin school ready to succeed. This will be an important investment in the long-term competitiveness of our workforce.
Revise the No Child Left Behind Act. Ensuring that all students succeed is critically important as a means of maintaining global competitiveness. Therefore, schools must be held accountable for students' learning. However, the current No Child Left Behind Act warps the priorities of public schools.
By emphasizing only the content on multiple choice math and reading tests, schools are taking away the focus from the critical thinking and innovation that produces the kind of entrepreneurs who have been the linchpin of our economy in the past. Therefore, schools need more support and less bureaucracy.
Congress must authorize a NCLB act that ensures that schools are providing a quality education that prepares students for college and careers, while providing the freedom for most schools to focus on improvement not bureaucratic minutiae.
First, NCLB should prioritize the transforming the truly failing schools rather than burdening all schools. The U.S. Department of Education should work to provide innovative ideas and training, rather than shoveling ever more money at failing schools and expecting a change. Second, the Education Department should shift its stance toward the competent schools by measuring improvement rather than technicalities. NCLB compliance overwhelms schools and takes away time and energy better spent on improving classroom instruction. Third, NCLB should assess the real skills of a college or career ready individual, not merely the scores on multiple-choice math and reading tests.
Incentivize math & science teachers. The country's future growth is reliant on jobs that require a mastery of math and science. Yet, schools face a chronic shortage of qualified math and science teachers. In order to have a highly prepared workforce, we must work to meet the demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers. I propose that we increase the pool of talented and qualified teachers by providing scholarships for best and brightest students who commit to becoming math and science teachers in the public schools for five years after graduating.