Our world looks very different than it did in 2008. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) play a much bigger role in both our local and global economies. So why are we spending the same amount per student as we did in 2008?
For example, in my home district, Clear Creek ISD, we spend about $40/day teaching per student --- about the same amount we were spending back in 2008. But in 2008, the iPad hadn't been invented yet. The world has changed and so have the needs of our students.
So what does that mean?
In order to prepare our students for the innovation economy, we must increase our investment in education. Ensuring that all our children receive an inclusive education, no matter where they come from or what their individual circumstances may be, is critical to helping them develop their unique talents, achieve their personal goals and contribute back to our community. It's also key to keeping our economy going, and being able to spend less on criminal justice.
And part of that funding must go to teachers. If we want to keep the best and well trained teachers, compensation must be competitive — unemployment is at 3.9% in Texas, and in our free market, if we don’t pay them, someone else will. Texas needs to step it up, and I’m willing to go to bat for education.
I'm an economist so I believe in numbers. We need meaningful standards, that convey to parents the most relevant information. That's why I support systems like CCISD's Community Accountability Standards - when communities engage with school districts and set the standards, students win.
Teachers know what they need to teach in the classrooms. In order to evaluate schools across Texas, instead of relying on corporate consultants, let's let a jury of teachers come together to write an exam that they feel will allow us to compare schools and learn what works (and what doesn't).
life After high school
Whether it's an apprenticeship, technical school, community college, four-year university, military service, or straight into the workforce, we all know we will be learning for the rest of our lives. Many experts believe the average person could have upwards of five different careers in their lifetime. In order to help everyone fulfill their own potential, we need our education system to be as flexible as our economy and make it easier to move from one job to another. It's part of a supply side economics, focused on workers and small businesses.
So what does that mean?
In 2003, the State of Texas deregulated tuition at colleges across the state. Faced with budget cuts, these schools made up the revenue by increasing tuition. That was a mistake. It's time to start re-regulating tuition here in the State of Texas and support the community colleges and universities that help Texas move into the future. With low tuition, education will be accessible to everyone, helping spur more innovative companies.
These are valuable resources already activated in the community, and are the best options to continue attracting the best and the brightest to our community. Community colleges play an important role in offering flexible, and when done right, affordable options for education and retraining. And the University of Houston-Clear Lake, with it's new undergraduate program, will continue to bring in new students interested in the science and math that made our area what it is today.
For some jobs, there are no better options than on the job training. We need to work with the private sector to connect those interested in going to work after high school with the right job for them. Skills- and project-based learning are important avenues to meeting our labor market needs and building for the future.
Supporting multiple avenues will help our area continue to grow and provide diverse opportunities for all of us.