Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Gingrich Education Plan


“We must envision a 21st century system of lifetime learning more flexible, more productive, more individualized and more capable than any bureaucracy could achieve.”

– Newt Gingrich

The continued growth of American jobs and American prosperity in a knowledge-based, internet-connected, globally-competitive world will be determined by quality of America's schools. If America is going to remain competitive with China and India in the 21st century, then we must commit to improving education, especially in math and science, and moving from a bureaucrat-dominated status quo to an innovative system that emphasizes accountability, transparency, and parental choice:

  • Empower parents to pick the right school for their child.  Parents had the right to choose the school that is best for their child, and should never be trapped in a failing school against their will.

  • Institute a Pell Grant-style system for Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Per-pupil school district funding should go into each child’s backpack, and follow them to the school their parents wish to attend. Parents who home school their children should receive a tax credit or be allowed to keep the Pell Grant.

  • Require transparency and accountability about achievement. Each state must set a rigorous standard that allows every student everywhere to master the skills they will need to be competitive, and develop a process for grading the effectiveness of every school.

  • Implement a “no limits” charter system.

    • All of the money allocated for student education goes directly to the school.

    • The school manages its own staff, whereby it is exempt from laws regarding tenure, and need not unionize.

    • The school defines its own curriculum, in line with the state standards and assessments.  Students in charters are not exempt from state assessments.  The schools are not exempt from reporting requirements, nor should they be.

    • State law allows the school to "franchise" its model without limitation.  That means they need not apply for a new school every time they can build a new one.  If they have the demand, they must be able to serve it.

    • The state has NO CAPS on the number of charter schools that can be approved, and the process for approving charter schools is smooth and efficient.

  • Establish a pay for performance system.  States and school governing boards should lift all existing prohibitions that prevent a principal from evaluating teachers based in part on student achievement.

  • Welcome business talent in our communities into the classroom. Every state should open their systems up to part-time teachers so that retired physicists, neighborhood pharmacists, or local accountants could teach one or two hours a day and bring knowledge to the classroom, and business-like adult expectations to the students.  And programs like Teach For America should be encouraged and not limited.

  • Restore American history and values into the classroom. America is a learned civilization and every American, including immigrants, should learn American history and the principles of American self-government, productivity and prosperity. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Every student must learn to read and much of what they read should reinforce American civilization.

  • Protect the rights of home-schooled children by ensuring they have the same access to taxpayer funded, extra-curricular educational opportunities as any public school student.

  • Encourage states to think outside outdated boundaries of education. States have developed very innovative models:

    • Students who graduate early should get the cost of the years they skip as an automatic scholarship, following the model of Governor Daniels’s program in Indiana.

    • Every state should have a work-study college that enables students to graduate debt free, following the model of the College of the Ozarks in Missouri.

    • Individualized, 24/7 learning should be universally available online, with the Florida Virtual School (over 120,000 students for K-12) as a model.

  • Shrink the federal Department of Education and return power to states and communities. The Department's only role will be to collect research and data, and help find new and innovative approaches to then be adopted voluntarily at the local level.