Opinion

Investment in schools needed to keep pace in global economy

Education is the lifeblood of a free, democratic society. In today’s global economy, we must provide children access to education that prepares them to succeed in a world where technology evolves every day. Quality education is crucial to the development of the individual and is clearly linked to the future security, economic and social health of our democracy. I’ve worked to make education a top priority in Congress, and I was recently honored to receive the endorsements of the National Education Association and the Washington Education Association, which represent our public school teachers.

If we are to remain a global economic leader, we must continue investing in math and science education. The foundation of innovation lies in a motivated, well-educated workforce equipped with science, technology, engineering and math skills. But the United States has been the leader in innovation because we also teach our children to be independent, critical thinkers — to challenge the status quo. So we must continue to graduate students with strong reading, writing and analytical skills.

The importance of a quality education in these areas can’t be overstated. The Hart-Rudman Commission, convened in 1998 to evaluate threats facing our national security over a 25-year period, released a report in early 2001 revealing that the second biggest threat to our security was our inability to educate children in math and science.

Just as our local law enforcement officers man the front lines to protect our homeland from terrorist threats, our teachers guard the front lines to protect our intellectual capital. Teachers must have resources and flexibility to do their jobs. That’s why I stood up to Leadership in Congress and successfully fought to increase President Bush’s request for education and healthcare accounts by over $7 billion.

I continue this fight every year — most recently, passing an amendment to reduce class sizes. Last year, I bucked my party and voted to override President Bush’s veto of the FY2008 education spending bill. I will continue standing firm, working to provide our schools and teachers with the funding and resources they need. After all, our teachers know best how to equip our students with the skills they need to lead our country — not bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. If there is any hope of better educating our children in math and science and closing the achievement gaps, we cannot continue to ignore the needs of our local schools and our teachers, or continue restraining them with heavy-handed federal regulations.

Our teachers also play a key role in the success of our children’s personal development. During 33 years in law enforcement, I witnessed the importance of investing in education. Access to education and health care is the very foundation of children’s growth and success. Without it, our children cannot get jobs, they end up on the street, get mixed up with drugs or prostitution, sometimes have children at a young age, and the vicious cycle repeats itself.

If we hope to overcome the economic, security and social challenges facing our country today, investment in education must remain a top priority. We must live up to the promises that we have made to our children and teachers, and fund our share of special education; ensure that every child is taught by a highly qualified teacher; engage and involve parents; continue working to reduce class sizes; and increase school safety so that children are taught in an environment conducive to learning.

The future of our nation and our children depends on us. It’s time we stop waiting for the next Congress or the next president to fix our education system. We must act now to give our schools and our teachers the flexibility and funding that they need to do their jobs, protect our intellectual power, and graduate the future leaders of this great nation.

Dave Reichert represents Mercer Island and the 8th Congressional District from Washington state.

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