Could the best way out of an economic crisis be through education reform? Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is making that argument.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the Republican says he hopes that education reform is high on the list of priorities for the next Congress. After all, he says, “students who learn more typically earn more, spend more, invest more, save more—and pay more in taxes.”
Citing the U.S. Census, Bush says that a high school dropout earns around $19,000 a year on average, compared to $28,600 for high school graduates and $51,500 for college grads.
“The export of knowledge-driven industry is a far greater threat to our prosperity than is illegal immigration, which seems to dominate the news and political discourse,” he writes. “Without a pipeline of homegrown talent to fuel growth, the lure of cheaper labor, lower operating costs, and less government regulation outside the U.S. will be difficult to overcome.”
Bush says that if the country is looking for a model to improve its system of education, it should look to his home state of Florida.
In 1998, half of the state’s fourth-graders were functionally illiterate at the stage when students go from “learning to read to reading to learn.” Today, 72 percent of them can read. Bush highlights two reforms that allowed this to happen: grading schools based on standardized test performance and getting rid of “social promotion,” or the act of advancing students to the next grade even if they haven’t earned it.
In Florida, schools receive grades of A through F, and top marks can earn schools up to $100 per student annually. This incentive, Bush says, has caused the number of “F” schools to plunge while the number of schools receiving an “A” has quadrupled.
Likewise, the elimination of social promotion has helped lower the illiteracy rate of third-graders to 16 percent from more than 25 percent.
“If Florida can do it, every state can,” Bush writes. “With 2.7 million students, Florida has the fourth-largest student population in the country. A majority of our public school children are minorities, and about half of the students are eligible for subsidized lunches based on low family income.”