Monday, May 11, 2009

Principle #5--The Public Schools

One of the basic building blocks of our society is the public school system. We are committed to its sustainment and improvement. We believe that schools work best when parents, teachers and community leaders work together at the local level. National school policies and national teacher unions are not essential to the task of improving public education.


Republicans believe that our system of public education is one of the most important contributors to the success of our civil society, and its sustainment and improvement is a critical goal of Republican social policy. Working together with parents, teachers, administrators and local officials, the Republican party seeks to renew and re-energize our country’s system of public education.

The first step in that renewal is to recognize that more money thrown at the problem is not always the answer. Per pupil expenditures have been shown in study after study to be unrelated to academic success. Republicans rightly focus on policies that help promote stable families as a more effective method of improving public education. Well-trained, well-paid and highly motivated teachers are also critical to improving the system, and Republicans recognize the value in policies that improve educator professionalism.

Next, Republicans understand that while the nexus of improving our schools is at the local level, the federal government does have a role to play. It is limited, it is well-defined, and it is not onerous to the creativity and innovation of local efforts. In partnership with the states, Republicans support a program patterned after the military’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), in which tuition is fully paid for those individuals who choose to teach in our nation’s public schools. Additionally, Republicans support increased federal funding to promote year-round schooling in America, though such support cannot be seen as penalizing those localities who choose the traditional school year.

Competition is not destruction. Voucher programs empower families and students trapped in failed schools while providing stark evidence to localities that they must improve. Complaints about voucher programs often focus around how limited in scope they are, that the numbers of students involved are so low as to make the programs impact not worth the investment. This criticism is ironic, given that the scope of such programs has specifically been limited by forces dedicated to their destruction.

Our children have a right to an education through the twelfth grade—this right levies an obligation on society to adequately fund and provide that education. Republicans however, do not recognize a right to education beyond the twelfth grade, as that would levy an obligation on society that we are not ready to assume. Republicans support federally funded, need based grants for higher education, and we support federally backed low-interest loans. But the loans are not gifts, and Republicans support energetic collection efforts against those who abuse the system.

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