by Marco Rubio
Our world is changing faster than ever before, and the skills necessary to get ahead are changing with it. Now more than ever, a quality education is a key to achieving the American Dream, but today America’s education system is failing our students.
We are at great risk of allowing our society to be one where the American Dream may be unachievable for too many young people — our children could end up the first generation in American history worse off than the generation that came before it.
For millions of parents and students across the country, the public education system is nothing short of a disaster. After World War II, the United States had the best education system in the world; today, we trail most of Europe and parts of Asia. We have alarmingly high dropout rates, and those students who do graduate aren’t equipped with the skills they need to succeed in either post-secondary education or the workforce. They’re products of an education system in which two-thirds of our kids can’t read at grade level.
Our future as a nation depends on an education system that provides a path upward for those who are not born wealthy or powerful.
We don’t have that today.
So how do we fix our broken system?
The most important step is to empower those most responsible for a child’s success: parents.
Parents should be the ultimate decision makers about their children’s education. But too many Americans — especially minority and working-class parents — are stuck sending their kids to failing, mismanaged schools. They have no say in their children’s education. They’re trapped, and that’s wrong.
This week is National School Choice Week, an annual chance to talk about one of the best ways to fix our broken system: redoubling efforts to increase parental choice and make more education options available to kids everywhere.
I’ve fought for choice throughout my time in state and federal government. In 2013, I introduced a new pathway to school choice nationwide, through the Educational Opportunities Act. Modeled after a successful program I supported in the Florida House, this proposal offers tax credits for donations that fund scholarships to low-income students. By redirecting taxpayer dollars away from the federal government and to scholarship organizations, this plan would expand school choice for those in need, give parents greater control over their children’s education, and promote innovation outside the public school system.
I have also worked to help states provide greater choice for military families and families with children who have disabilities. These students face unique challenges, and would be among the biggest beneficiaries of more choice. The federal government should not stand in the way of states trying to offer them new options.
Alongside choice, there’s another key principle for letting American schools flourish: local control. In government generally, but especially when it comes to education, the best decisions are made close to the people affected by them.
This means ending any and all federal efforts to impose Common Core on all 50 states and getting the federal government out of K-12 decision making. It means reinstating the popular DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which has been jeopardized by President Obama’s partisan agenda. And it means supporting charter schools in an effort to better educate our children for the 21st century.
With four children of my own, I am deeply grateful that my wife and I can choose to give them the quality Christian education we want for them. I know that not every parent is lucky enough to do that. But as president, I’ll continue the fight to get them that choice, and ensure that no child is forced into a failing school.
School choice is a good deal in terms of dollars and cents: It’ll equip our kids with the skills they’ll need to do the jobs of tomorrow. But it’s about a lot more than that.
The hopes that parents have for children go well beyond the jobs their kids will someday hold. We care even more about what values our children learn, what kind of a society they’ll grow up in, and whether they will get the chance to live their dreams.
Right now, our education system is standing in the way of the American Dream for too many children. As President, I’d turn that around — school choice will be one of the most important ways we expand the American Dream to more Americans than ever before.