The Ripon Forum

Volume 50, No. 1

February 2016

In this edition

By on February 15, 2016

RF - February 2016 - coverAbraham Lincoln once called education the “most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” In recent years, education has also been a subject that has fallen victim to partisan gridlock and political dysfunction. The recent enactment of a plan to rewrite the No Child Left Behind Act was a victory over this dysfunction.

Called the Every Student Succeeds Act, the plan was also a victory for Republicans because of the reforms that were approved. We look at these reforms in our latest edition of THE RIPON FORUM with an essay by respected education expert Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute. In his essay, Hess not only highlights some of the key components of the bill, but also points out that the measure, while a “conservative triumph,” represents “no more than three quarters of the loaf.” To that end, Hess lays out five areas where additional reform is needed and Congress should consider taking action in the coming year.

Also writing on the subject of education reform is Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation. Called “the intellectual father of the economic integration movement,” Kahlenberg’s focus is on a troubling fact about America’s educational system – namely, the fact that over half of public school students attend schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income under federal guidelines.“The flight of wealthy students from public to private schools is at once a constitutional right of families and a cause for unease,” Kahlenberg writes, adding that, “Public schools that have a healthy blend of middle class and lower-income students provide much stronger opportunities for all students.” To help achieve this goal, he points to an approach that was adopted in Cambridge, Massachusetts and that any Republican can support – turn every public school into a magnet school and give parents a choice of where they send their kids.

As Ken Smith notes in another essay for this edition, the challenges facing America’s students cannot be addressed by government alone. Smith is the President of Jobs for America’s Graduates, a state-based national non-profit organization that, in its 35-year history, has not only helped increase graduation rates, but has helped find jobs for more than one million at-risk and disadvantaged young men and women around the United States. “Consistent, sustained success is best achieved with the fully engaged support of both the public and private sectors,” Smith writes.

Another way of lifting people out of poverty, argues U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in another op-ed, is by expanding the educational pathways they can take. “Apprenticeships are a proven way to help people develop in-demand skills and to meet the needs of employers,” the South Carolina Senator writes. “Whether you are a 22 year old living in poverty and looking for a way to improve your skillset, a 45 year old looking to change careers, or a high school student who does not necessarily want to get a four year degree, the ability to be able to provide for yourself and your family while improving your future earning potential is invaluable.”

In addition to looking at the next steps in education reform, this latest edition of the FORUM also features the results of a Ripon Society national survey examining a key part of the American electorate in 2016 – the middle class. With threats to American security increasing around the world, one of the rising stars of the GOP, combat veteran and Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, writes about the need for the United States to confront and defeat radical Islam, which he calls “The Challenge of Our Time.” And with senior Republican congressional aides meeting at Mount Vernon this month for The Ripon Society’s 6th Annual Symposium on Leadership, Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Larson examines George Washington’s Farewell Address and shares his thoughts on the lessons it holds for today.

Finally, in our latest Ripon Profile, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik shares her thoughts on such topics as the issue facing America no one is talking about and the federal agency most in need of reform.

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of the FORUM, appreciate your readership, and encourage you to contact us with any thoughts or comments you may have.

Lou Zickar

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