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Four States That Are Leading the Charge for Conservative Education

Posted on Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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17 Comments
america education, learning blocks

It’s looking like this year’s election will feature a Trump-Biden rematch — a pairing that’s especially frustrating for education, where the nation is wrestling with a raft of real problems: dismal student achievementchronic absenteeismchaotic classroomsplunging confidence in higher education, and more. 

The Biden administration makes clear that a party beholden to the teacher unions can’t do much more than subsidize the status quo. Meanwhile, free of ties to the education blob, conservatives are free to lead — if they’re up to the challenge. While Donald Trump has shown he lacks the discipline or seriousness to engage in substantive policy, a quartet of conservative state leaders are pointing the way forward when it comes to early childhood education and K–12 schooling. 

  1. In early childhood education, where conservatives have tended to come up empty, Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin has put forward a robust vision that offers a clear alternative to supersizing traditional school districts. It features state-created digital wallets that can accommodate both public and private funds for preschool while dedicating an additional $200 million to support choice-based offerings for working families.

    But the agenda encompasses much more, including a “navigator” to provide searchable information on early childhood options; attention to the red tape that’s stymied the supply of good options; and a program to redeploy underutilized space in public colleges to expand early education. Youngkin has sketched a principled vision of how we can tackle early childhood in a way that’s responsive, family-friendly and not reliant on packing little children into impersonal school buildings.

  2. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s signature LEARNS Act offers a similarly robust agenda for K–12. LEARNS includes a universal Education Savings Account program that will ultimately deposit $7,500 a year in flexible-use spending accounts that allow families to access a host of private providers if they wish. The act was about much more than expanding educational choice, though; it also invested heavily in rebooting the teaching profession by boosting the minimum salary for teachers to $50,000, raising salaries for most of Arkansas teachers (disproportionately those in high-poverty school districts), granting 12 weeks of paid maternity leave to teachers, and earmarking funds for literacy coaches.
  3. In Louisiana, meanwhile, state superintendent Cade Brumley shepherded through his bipartisan state board an impressive overhaul of the state’s social studies standards. He did this by being radically transparent, fielding more than 1,800 public comments and taking extensive feedback from both supporters and critics. The final standards are unabashedly pro-American while leaning forthrightly into difficult and controversial topics. They address weighty themes while requiring more factual knowledge and specificity than previous standards, something that those on all sides of our history wars can applaud. 
  4. There has been perhaps no more heartening development in public education than the surge of support for schools to embrace the “science of reading.” Rooted in a commitment to the building blocks of literacy, scientifically informed reading offers a systematic, effective way to help young children develop into fluent readers. The pioneer on this count may well be red Mississippi, where the legislature passed and Gov. Phil Bryant signed the Literacy-Based Promotion Act in 2013.

    The law focused on reading preparation in grades K–3, investing in reading coaches and high-quality materials for those coaches to utilize. It also required third grade students to demonstrate reading proficiency by holding back those who did not reach that level and ensuring they received additional support. In 2013, just 21 percent of Mississippi 4th graders were “proficient” in reading on the National Assessment for Educational Progress. By 2019, rapid progress meant that the gap between Mississippi’s students and their peers in other states had shrunk to just 2 percentage points. 

When it comes to education, it’s not enough for conservatives to simply stand athwart history, shouting “Stop!” When taxpayers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars per year on early childhood and K–12 and when public officials make the rules on everything from textbook adoption to preschool teacher licensure, a failure to lead is really a decision to concede. 

There are state leaders right now showing how the right can do just this. Their example deserves to be emulated, in Washington and across the land.  

Reprinted with permission from AEI by Frederick M. Hess and Michael Q. McShane.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.

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John Shipway
John Shipway
2 months ago

One can alter laws all they wish but until the teachers unions are removed from ALL teaching policy decisions any such good wishes will be useless.
Do some research into the two bodies that make up American teachers unions. Mao would be so proud of these two groups…..well, Mao in conjunction with Jeffrey Epstein.

Donna
Donna
2 months ago

This article reads like a word salad. There is nothing substantive in the author’s rant. The only thing clear in the article is the obvious disdain the author has for President Trump.

Muriel
Muriel
2 months ago

What happened to mandating the teaching of Civics? Children who are taught the struggle and sacrifice that our fore Fathers went through to form this nation, might not be so quick to take what we have for granted.

bill hastings
bill hastings
2 months ago

Great example of state leadership which shows why fed Doe should be abolished. Forwarding to my IN state rep.

John
John
2 months ago

We are tired of all the poor people with TDS…!

anna hubert
anna hubert
2 months ago

I do not see anywhere the fact that not all students are equal academically and those who no matter how hard they try can’t function on grade 10 level should be placed in alternative classes Learn the trade properly and be good at it It is easier to find a needle in the hay stack then to find a good tradesman or a hairdresser

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 months ago

Need ALL Red States alone on this

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
2 months ago

I’m sure all these blue cities will jump immediately on-board…. unless the Republican solution is one they agree with, its a moot point. That solution, as usual, is “more money”, and that’s worked so well before!

QR Dinâmico
QR Dinâmico
2 months ago

“Thank you for being a motivational architect, constructing bridges of determination and perseverance in your posts!”

John
John
2 months ago

Not worth the time it takes to delete

Emily Gutmann
Emily Gutmann
2 months ago

our journey to optimal oral health starts here – schedule your appointment with our Visalia dentists today!

Steve
Steve
2 months ago

What a lousy article. I was hoping I would find quality journalism on this site.

John
John
2 months ago

Clowns ???? have to find a way to include Donald Trump in their idiotic ideology

Deborah R. Evans
Deborah R. Evans
2 months ago

Oh my gosh an answer to a prayer ! Thank YOU !

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