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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Head to Head: Democrats and Republicans debate which party is best for schools

    Patrick Martin, UA Young Democrats

    The single most important thing that the government can do to improve primary and secondary education in America is to improve the public school system — not pull public money out of public schools to line the pocket books of private businesses like charter, private and parochial schools. In particular, we ought to begin by increasing funding to schools, raising teachers’ wages and standardizing education across the states.

    Those who say there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats couldn’t be more wrong when it comes to education. Everything I will say in here is opposed by the Republicans running for state office in Arizona and supported by the Democrats.

    Republicans have continually complained that governments already spend enough, or even too much, on public education, with Republican candidates Doug Ducey, for governor, and Diane Douglas, for Superintendent of Public Instruction, claiming that the current amount, around $8,700 per student in Arizona, is more than enough. Not only is it absolutely ridiculous that these candidates believe being in the bottom five states in the nation in per-student spending is adequate, but it’s ludicrous people think that spending more money on education won’t improve it.

    Teacher pay is abysmal: The average starting salary for teachers in the nation is about $36,000 per year, while the average starting salary for jobs that require a bachelor’s degree is about $45,000 per year. That’s a 20 percent difference. How can we attract talented people to teach the nation’s children if we force them to take a 20-percent pay cut in order to do so?

    In addition to properly funding our teachers, we also need to properly fund our school systems so that teachers and students have the supplies they need — which is why Fred DuVal, the Democratic candidate for governor, pledges not to cut any money from public education. Ducey? He intends to go to court to protect the cuts to Arizona’s education.

    Furthermore, Republicans like Ducey like to claim our public school system is “broken.” Well, these Republicans are wrong. American public schools are not underperforming. Rather, national studies from the U.S. Department of Education and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes have shown that, overall, traditional public schools perform just as well as private and charter schools.

    If this comes as a surprise, realize that the primary difference between public and private schools is that public schools must accept everyone in their district, while private schools select for students that tend to do better on standardized tests, giving the appearance that they are more effective in general. But the fact is, if those students were to attend traditional public schools, they would succeed just as well. This reveals a certain hypocrisy in Ducey’s policies: While he believes we spend too much on education, he supports using public funds to help students attend much more expensive private schools. DuVal does not.

    Finally, we should standardize teaching across the nation, such as through the Common Core. While the Common Core has its flaws, we need policymakers who are committed to improving its implementation, such as Duval and David Garcia, the Democratic candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction. However, Republicans like Ducey and Douglas oppose these standards for reasons that show they have no idea what the Common Core is. They believe it is a set of standards that are “imposed top-down from Washington,” a direct quote from Ducey, when in reality, it is a state-led effort not connected to the federal government. It is extremely troubling that Republican candidates have such strong opinions on something they are ignorant about. But, of course, that has unfortunately become par for the course for the Republican Party.

    The fact of the matter is that Democrats are committed to protecting one of our nation’s oldest and strongest institutions, the institution that arguably allowed us to become the world’s richest country in the first place: The public school system. Republicans are committed to eroding that institution by slowing choking off its supply of funds, by eliminating teachers’ unions that fight to raise teacher pay and by rejecting attempts to ensure that students in every state and community are learning the skills they will need to succeed.

    Those of us who care about elementary and secondary education have a clear choice come November.

    VS

    Caleb Rhodes, UA College Republicans

    The cornerstone of a free and democratic society is a strong education for its citizens.

    Education gives people the basic skills and knowledge they need to be productive members of society. It opens the door to a brighter future, and, most importantly, it empowers them to be civically engaged stewards of their nation and community.

    However, in recent years, the promise of a good education for every citizens has not been kept. Many students, particularly those in low-income communities, have been robbed of the opportunity to get a good education.

    The challenges facing public education are numerous. Despite spending billions of dollars every year, only a fraction of education funds actually make it to the classroom. Cumbersome regulations and excessive standardized testing have taken control away from teachers and put it in the hands of bureaucrats. Students in low-income areas are often trapped in failing schools with no chance to get a decent education. Universities are overwhelmed with new demands, and graduates are finding it harder and harder to find a job. Students in the U.S. desperately need a better system; it is up to us to give it to them.

    First and foremost, the money spent on education must make it to teachers and students. In Arizona, only 54 cents out of every dollar spent on education makes it to the classroom. In many school districts, the statistics are even more grim, with less than half of public education funds making it into the classroom. Pouring more money into a system without addressing structural issues will not solve the problem. Administration should be streamlined, and funds should be prioritized for teachers and classroom expenses.

    The control of the classroom has in many ways been taken away from teachers. They are forced to teach to the test and often must follow rigid sets of curriculums. Frankly, the top-down education model has failed. The people who know how best to educate students are teachers and parents. Teachers are better able to evaluate what their students need, not a central bureaucracy.

    Far too many inner city students are forced to attend low-quality schools. Students are denied the opportunity to be successful based simply on geographic location. Students have different needs and learning styles. Unfortunately, many students in low-income areas are forced into a uniform system. States should consider a voucher program that would increase competition and give low-income students the golden tickets they need to get a first-rate education. Creating an environment where students can choose between a variety of programs allows them to find the school that works best for them.

    These days, we are told that the only way to achieve the American Dream is to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on a college education. For many of us, a college education is what we need to be successful, and states should ensure that for every student it is affordable to attend college. One way to do this is to expand community college programs and allow high school students to take more dual-enrollment credits. However, for many people, there are better ways to ensure they can achieve their maximum potential. Many students are hands-on learners, and college may not be the best place for them to gain skills. These students may be better served in trade and technical schools, which can give them the skills they need at a fraction of the cost.

    Smart solutions, not empty rhetoric, will solve the challenges our education system faces. Often, politicians throw money at these problems so they can say they are “for education,” but do nothing to solve the underlying problems. Money spent on education should go to teachers and classrooms, teachers should be given liberty to actually teach their students, parents should be allowed to decide what program or school works best for their children’s educational needs and students should be able to choose from many options when pursuing a higher education, whether that be college or technical school. The future of the nation depends on a well-educated population. We must be the ones who fight to make it the world-class system it should be.

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