To ensure our nation walks the path of success, we must look ahead to the next generation. The children of this country are our future, which is why we must do everything in our power to give them the advantage they will need to guarantee their success.
I believe that the greatest advantage we can ever give the next generation is a good education. Unfortunately, the education system in this nation has its fair share of problems. While the strength of this nation is the diversity of its people, our diversity is not always reflected in our education system and too many children have fallen through the cracks as a result.
That is why, last year, I voted in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which gives control over our education system back to the states and local communities. This important legislation allows parents – not the government – to determine what type of school best suits their child’s needs.
We need to applaud innovative alternatives
Minnesota created the first charter school in the United States. We need to applaud this type of innovation, not stifle it. Thankfully, the ESSA encourages the development of alternative schools such as charter and magnet. Most importantly, the ESSA expressly prohibits the federal government from punishing states for opting out of Common Core.
The passage of this major education policy reform is a step in the right direction, but our efforts must go beyond high school. Much like the many education options we hope to promote among our children’s primary and secondary education, I believe we should strive to promote that same variety after high school as well.
Not everyone in the United States will attend a four-year university – nor should they. In order to maintain a strong and competitive workforce, we must promote higher education in all forms, ranging from the four-year university to community college to technical college and vocational training.
This is why I also supported the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which passed the House this year. This legislation strengthens career and technical education programs that train students for their future careers, especially in industries important to Minnesota like health care and manufacturing. Additionally, it supports new learning techniques and neighborhood partnerships that target existing and emerging employment fields that already have unfilled job vacancies.
Affordable options create ‘job-ready’ grads
During my time in Congress, I have made it a point to visit various educational institutions around Minnesota and throughout the 6th District to learn more about what is available to our students. Just a few weeks ago, I toured Anoka Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College; both are impressive – not just because of the affordable and real-life curriculum they offer, but because of their commitment to have their students “job ready” for the marketplace. In fact, many of their students are actually hired before they finish school; now that’s a return on investment! Of course, that is probably one of the reasons that Anoka Ramsey Community College was recently named one of the top 10 community colleges in the United States, making it a contender for the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.
In order to build a strong workforce, remain globally competitive and ensure a successful future overall, we must diversify education and at all levels. We must get the meddling hands of the federal government and unelected federal bureaucrats out of the business of educating our kids – and, we must return the power and choices to the teachers, students and their parents so that our students can be successful once again. In conclusion, our state and local people, along with our teaching professionals and parents, know what’s best for our kids, and by empowering the local authorities we can provide the best education to give our next generation the greatest advantage for a successful and prosperous future.
Tom Emmer, a Republican, represents Minnesota’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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