Educational Reform

March 2, 2000

The 1992 presidential election was about the economy. Many believe that the 2000 presidential election will be about education. Survey after survey shows this to be the hot domestic issue on the top of the minds of many voters.

The reason is simple: American education is not working. Although the U.S. spends more than 8 percent of its gross domestic product on education, nearly 60 percent of our low-income fourth graders cannot read at a basic level. On recent international tests of math and science, our high school seniors ranked near the bottom of industrialized nations. In mathematics, for example, only Cyprus and South Africa fared worse.

Obviously something must be done, and we will hear lots of solutions proposed by the presidential candidates. But one solution already sits in the U.S. Senate waiting for passage. It's called Academic Achievement for All, or "Straight A's."

Under this proposal, states could (if they choose) sign a contract with Washington to boost their students' academic performance by specified amounts. In order to reach these goals, participating states and districts would enjoy unprecedented freedom to take any action necessary to succeed. The federal government would back off from prescribing how and where education dollars are spent. After five years, if the state reaches its goal, it retains it freedom. If it does not, it returns to the regulatory straight-jacket they currently operate under.

The House of Representatives has already passed a "pilot" version of the "Straight A's" proposal. Now the focus turns to the Senate. Even before a new president can begin to reform education, Congress has a chance to get a head start by letting state and districts do what needs to be done to improve education. I think they deserve the chance.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.