Every state and every community faces unique challenges to improve education, but the need for comprehensive reform across the nation has never been more apparent.
Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City schools, put it best: "The American Dream is quickly becoming an American memory. In too many communities, children do not have access to an effective school that can provide them the educational opportunities they deserve. Our nation's schools lead the world in spending yet rank near the bottom on virtually every measure of student achievement. Higher education is more important but less affordable than ever before, stretching family finances at a time when new college graduates enter a tough economy facing mountains of debt."
Mitt Romney's comprehensive plan for education, announced Wednesday, has the potential to confront our nation's challenges and restore access to the American dream.
Mr. Romney understands the type of leadership and courage necessary to stand up and put the needs of children ahead of special interests. During his term as Massachusetts governor, Mr. Romney fought for increased access for students to charter schools, realizing that choice and innovation spark positive results. He also increased access to higher education for high-performing students by creating the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships, which waives full tuition to state universities. Mr. Romney understands that states and local school districts are incubators for educational innovation and are best positioned to reform their education systems.
Mr. Romney's plan for education reform ensures a chance for every child from kindergarten through their careers. This plan encourages states to give parents the information and choices they need to enroll their children in high-quality schools. It is important that all schools must be held to high standards and must able to recognize and reward great teachers. When addressing post-secondary concerns, Mr. Romney's plan stresses diverse and affordable options for students that will give them the skills they need to compete in a global economy. When they graduate, our students must be able to find jobs that provide a rewarding return on their educational investment. Mr. Romney has detailed how he will work with states to achieve these goals, and he is the person who can take the next, crucial step.
In Indiana, we have found success with these policies. While education should be the primary responsibility of states, we must share a common goal: that every child regardless of their state or ZIP code receives an excellent education that ensures the American Dream is within his or her reach. Mr. Romney clearly shares this goal, and I support him for his plan to pursue bold education reform that puts students and parents first.
Tony Bennett is the Indiana superintendent of public instruction, chairman of Chiefs for Change and a former science teacher. This Op-Ed was solicited by the Romney campaign.