Education Means a More Competitive America
Education is a parental right, a state and local responsibility, and a national strategic interest.
Maintaining America’s preeminence requires a world-class system of education, with high standards, in which all students can reach their potential. That requires considerable improvement over our current 70 percent high school graduation rate and six-year graduation rate of only 57 percent for colleges.
Education is essential to competitiveness, but it is more than just training for the work force of the future. It is through education that we ensure the transmission of a culture, a set of values we hold in common. It has prepared generations for responsible citizenship in a free society, and it must continue to do so. Our party is committed to restoring the civic mission of schools envisioned by the founders of the American public school system. Civic education, both in the classroom and through service learning, should be a cornerstone of American public education and should be central to future school reform efforts.
All children should have access to an excellent education that empowers them to secure their own freedom and contribute to the betterment of our society. We reaffirm the principles that have been the foundation of the nation’s educational progress toward that goal: accountability for student academic achievement; periodic testing on the fundamentals of learning, especially math and reading, history and geography; transparency, so parents and the general public know which schools best serve their students; and flexibility and freedom to innovate so schools and districts can best meet the needs of their students.
We advocate policies and methods that are proven and effective: building on the basics, especially phonics; ending social promotion; merit pay for good teachers; classroom discipline; parental involvement; and strong leadership by principals. We reject a one-size-fits-all approach and support parental options, including home schooling, and local innovations such as schools or classes for boys only or for girls only and alternative and innovative school schedules. We recognize and appreciate the importance of innovative education environments, particularly homeschooling, for stimulating academic achievement. We oppose over-reaching judicial decisions which deny children access to such environments. We support state efforts to build coordination between elementary and secondary education and higher education such as K-16 councils and dual credit programs.
To ensure that all students will have access to the mainstream of American life, we support the English First approach and oppose divisive programs that limit students’ future potential. All students must be literate in English, our common language, to participate in the promise of America.
Early Childhood Education
The family is the most powerful influence on a child’s ability to succeed. As such, parents are our children’s first and foremost teachers. We support family literacy, which improves the literacy, language, and life skills of both parents and children along with the continued improvement of early childhood programs, such as Head Start, from low-income families. We reaffirm our support for the child care tax credit that helps parents choose the care best for their family.
Giving Students the Best Teachers
For students to meet world class standards, they must have access to world class teachers, whether in person or through virtual public schools that can bring high-quality instruction into the classroom. School districts must have the authority to recruit, reward, and retain the best and brightest teachers, and principals must have the authority to select and assign teachers without regard to collective bargaining agreements. Because qualified teachers are often not available through traditional routes, we support local efforts to create an adjunct teacher corps of experts from higher education, business, and the military to fill in when needed.
Teachers must be protected against frivolous litigation and should be able to take reasonable actions to maintain discipline and order in the classroom. We encourage the private-public partnerships and mentoring that can make classroom time more meaningful to students by integrating it with learning beyond school walls. These efforts are crucial to lowering the drop-out rate and helping at-risk students realize their potential.
We encourage state efforts to ensure that personnel who interact with children pass thorough background checks and are held to the highest standards of conduct.
Partnerships between schools and businesses can be especially important in STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and math. The need to improve secondary education in those fields can be measured by the number of remedial courses now offered at the college level. Our country’s reliance upon foreign talent in those areas begins with insufficient emphasis upon them in the high school years. We applaud those who are changing that situation by giving young people real-world experience in the private sector and by providing students with rigorous technical and academic courses that give students the skills and knowledge necessary to be productive members in a competitive American workforce.
Asserting Family Rights in Schooling
Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child. We support choice in education for all families, especially those with children trapped in dangerous and failing schools, whether through charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attending faith-based or other non-public schools, or the option of home schooling. We call for the vigilant enforcement of laws designed to protect family rights and privacy in education. We will energetically assert the right of students to engage in voluntary prayer in schools and to have equal access to school facilities for religious purposes. We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with increased funding for abstinence education, which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and expected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. We oppose school-based clinics that provide referrals, counseling, and related services for abortion and contraception. Schools should not ask children to answer offensive or intrusive personal non-academic questionnaires without parental consent. It is not the role of the teacher or school administration to recommend or require the use of psychotropic medications that must be prescribed by a physician.
Reviewing the Federal Role in Primary and Secondary Education
Although the Constitution assigns the federal government no role in local education, Washington’s authority over the nation’s schools has increased dramatically. In less than a decade, annual federal funding has shot up 41 percent to almost $25 billion, while the regulatory burden on state and local governments has risen by about 6.7 million hours – and added $141 million in costs – during that time. We call for a review of Department of Education programs and administration to identify and eliminate ineffective programs, to respect the role of states, and to better meet state needs.
To get our schools back to the basics of learning, we support initiatives to block-grant more Department of Education funding to the states, with requirements for state-level standards, assessments, and public reporting to ensure transparency. Local educators must be free to end ineffective programs and reallocate resources where they are most needed.
Maintaining our Commitment to IDEA
Because a federal mandate on the states must include the promised federal funding, we will fulfill the promise of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to cover 40 percent of the costs incurred because of that legislation. We urge preventive efforts in early childhood, especially assistance in gaining pre-reading skills, to help many youngsters move beyond the need for IDEA’s protections.
Our country’s system of higher education – public and private, secular and religious, large and small institutions – is unique for its excellence, its diversity, and its accessibility. Learning is a safeguard of liberty. Post-secondary education not only increases the earnings of individuals but advances economic development. Our colleges and universities drive much of the research that keeps America competitive. We must ensure that our higher education system meet the needs of the 21st century student and economy and remain innovative and accessible.
Meeting College Costs
Students and their parents face formidable challenges in planning for college as costs continue to outpace inflation. Higher education seems immune from market controls and the law of supply and demand. We commend those institutions which are directing a greater proportion of their endowment revenues toward tuition relief.
The Republican vision for expanding access to higher education has led to two major advances, Education Savings Accounts and Section 529 accounts, by which millions of families now save for college. While federal student loans and grants have opened doors to learning for untold numbers of low- and middle-income students, the overall financial aid system, with its daunting forms and confused rationales, is nothing less than Byzantine. It must be simplified. We call for a presidential commission to undertake that task and to review the role of government regulations and policies in the tuition spiral. We affirm our support for the public-private partnership that now offers students and their families a vibrant marketplace in selecting their student loan provider.
Innovation Will Lead to Lifelong Learning
The challenge to American higher education is to make sure students can access education in whatever forms they want. As mobility increases in all aspects of American life, student mobility, from school to school and from campus to campus, will require new approaches to admissions, evaluations, and credentialing. Distance learning propelled by an expanding telecommunications sector and especially broadband, is certain to grow in importance – whether through public or private institutions – and federal law should not discriminate against the latter. Lifelong learning will continue to transform the demographics of higher education, bringing older students and real-world experience to campus.
Community Colleges Continue to Play a Crucial Role
Community colleges are central to the future of higher education, especially as they build bridges between the world of work and the classroom. Many of our returning veterans find community colleges to be welcoming environments where they can develop specific skills for use in the civilian workforce. As the first responders to economic development and retraining of workers, these schools fulfill our national commitment of an affordable and readily accessible education for all.
Special Challenges in Higher Education
Free speech on college campuses is to be celebrated, but there should be no place in academia for anti-Semitism or racism of any kind. We oppose the hiring, firing, tenure, and promotion practices at universities that discriminate on the basis of political or ideological belief. When federal taxes are used to support such practices, it is inexcusable. We affirm the right of students and faculty to express their views in the face of the leftist dogmatism that dominates many institutions. To preserve the integrity and independence of the nation’s colleges, we will continue to ensure alternatives to ideological accrediting systems.
Because some of the nation’s leading universities create or tolerate a hostile atmosphere toward the ROTC, we will rigorously enforce the provision of law, unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court, which denies those institutions federal research grants unless their military students have the full rights and privileges of other students. That must include the right to engage in ROTC activities on their own campus, rather than being segregated elsewhere.