So why do I have to come all the way to Washington D.C. to hear how successful Florida has done in improving its education and how the rest of the country should look at Florida’s policies that helped reshape its schools? Don’t forget these are Republican ideas that were implemented 10 years ago when Florida had a Republican governor and a majority in the State House and Senate. Right when Jeb Bush took office Florida schools were ranked 47th in the nation and in January of 2009 we have been ranked at one of the top 10. Why aren’t Republicans owning up to the moment and expressing their achievements? Why did only one newspaper in Florida pick up on it? Yes there is still room for improvement, however if the public is not aware of it they could continue to loose faith in the party in the years to come.
Yesterday, I attended a White House briefing where President Obama rolled out his Education plan in front of the US Hispanic Chamber. His focus was the need to enforce accountability from schools, to educators, and students through means of transparency and testing. Obama gave credit to Florida in having a transparent online system where the public is able to view schools scores as well as parents able to view their child’s individual results. He talked about school choice and charter schools, something that teacher unions are not fond of which favor the Democratic Party. Obama also addressed the need for a nationwide Pre-Kindergarten program emphasizing studies that show young children who enroll in Pre-K are more likely to earn $10 to $1 over students who don’t. Everything he mentioned is what Florida has been doing since before the No Child Left Behind Act.
A few hours later I attended a panel discussion where Dan Lips, from the Heritage Foundation, shared Florida’s school improvements and how other states need to look at Florida’s success when finding ways to improve their schools. He further explained how these initiatives also help shrink the achievement gap between minority students (especially Hispanics) and the whole without sacrificing higher achievers. At the end all four panelists also expressed the need for early education programs such as the VPK program in Florida.
I know at the end of the day today the economy will continue to be a major concern for the public and politicians, however the consistent message I heard throughout my visit in DC was that education is the key to improving and remaining competitive in the future. There is a direct link between education and the future work force and economy. My suggestion to my party is to not allow the left to claim responsibility for coming up with education reforms when this was ideas that Republicans have long championed for.
My Latina POV….Successful education reform that has lead to the improvement of Latino students should be another reason why Republican leaders need to stress what they have been long advocating for. Is that not the group that made a difference in the last election cycle in Florida? Numerous polls over the years have indicated that Education was and is the number one concern for Hispanics (it came in a close 2nd recently due to the economic downturn)? The main reason for these numbers is because the average age of Hispanics is 27. A young group due to the fact that the largest segment is under 18, therefore many Latino parents who have children in our public school system. Does the party want to reach out to a growing electorate? Then talk to us about education.