Nearly one out of two Hispanics enrolled in our nation’s public schools will not receive a high school diploma. Despite efforts made by the federal government to close the education achievement gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, a recent bill and Melinda Gates Foundation study found that in some of our country’s biggest cities, the high school drop-out rate is almost 50 percent for Hispanics.
This is an issue of national concern. Overwhelming evidence indicates that we are in nothing short of an education crisis. It’s a crisis that threatens our economic and even national security — yet education policy is rarely given the attention it deserves. This fall’s release of “Waiting for Superman” shined a light on the truly tragic state of our education system, but all too often the problem is either ignored, or worse still, dealt with on a national scale.
The responsibility of educating our children began to move from the states to the federal government beginning with the Lyndon Johnson administration. As the federal government took a greater role, education spending also increased significantly. We have learned over the years, however, that more money is not the solution to the problem.
Just as money does not necessarily improve the education system, there is not one solution for every education system in the United States. Each state, district, school, student is different and must be treated as such. George W. Bush constituted “No Child Left Behind,” with the intention of closing the achievement gap. It is clear, however, that eight years after being signed into law, this approach has failed.
Furthermore, the Obama administration has created “Race to the Top” and “National Standards.” Race to the Top is basically a way for federal officials to bribe states into accepting their demands in implementing federal education policy at the state level. National Standards is simply a way to promote education mediocrity to all 50 states.
Unfortunately, a close look reveals that these plans are just a clever ploy. They give the appearance of reform, while maintaining the tired and failed formula of the federal government calling the shots.
It is not all bleak. There are success stories in education reform; they are simply found at the state level. Take, for instance, Florida. It has a sizable Hispanic population enrolled in its public schools. Under the leadership of former Gov. Jeb Bush, the education achievement gap closed significantly between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students.
Florida promotes school choice, giving parents the opportunity to choose a better school for their children based on individual needs. They provide options with Charter Schools and Virtual Education. They hold teachers, students and schools accountable for academic outcome through the A+ Accountability Plan. They allow for alternative teacher certification, bringing more, qualified teachers into the classroom.
These initiatives have led to a narrowed racial achievement gap in the state. President Obama’s “National Standards,” assumes that a student in Florida has the same needs as one in Washington, D.C. or Omaha, Nebraska. Parents know best what a student needs, which is why it makes sense to return control to the states — it means giving more power to families.
Improving our education system and closing the achievement gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic students is the first step towards a more secure future. We cannot continue to wait for a mythical superman to solve these problems. Reform beings at home; reform works at the state level. When given the choice, parents will choose a better education for their children.
Israel Ortega is the Editor of Libertad.org, The Heritage Foundation’s Spanish language website. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.