Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of a new school year. As Falls Church sees over 2,000 students return to the classroom, we are again reminded of the importance of a high-quality public education.
While Northern Virginia is home to some of the best public schools in the nation, our outstanding schools are the exception, not the rule. Nearly a quarter of American students don’t graduate from high school while over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs are going to require more than a high school diploma. The United States should be home to the best schools in the world and the Federal Government has an important role in improving the performance of our schools.
Congress will soon begin to undertake reforming the flaws related to the No Child Left Behind law. It was recently reported that more than 60 percent of Virginia’s public schools failed to meet math and reading goals outlined in NCLB. The legislation has been drastically underfunded since being enacted nearly a decade ago, passing a burden onto states and localities at a time when they can least afford it. Additionally, NCLB has unreasonable testing requirements for Limited English Proficiency students (LEP) and disabled students. I will continue pressing for sensible changes to NCLB as Congress turns to that debate.
In March, President Obama visited Kenmore Middle School in Alexandria to outline his vision for our public education system. During his remarks, the President emphasized the need for investment in science and technology. From the light bulb to Facebook, the U.S. has lead the way for global innovation. The President is right to focus on education as a means to strengthen our continued success as a nation.
The changing dynamic of the global economy, however, demands a workforce more skilled in science, math, and technology that it is today. With the emergence of the Internet and social media, the world is shrinking and today’s younger generations will be competing for careers not just with their American peers, but against students in China and India. In order for the United States to remain the leading economic power for decades to come, we must ensure the next generation has a strong foundation in scientific fields of study.
Not only do innovative technologies hold the key to boosting our nation’s economy, but high-tech jobs are often high-paying jobs. The average yearly wage for a technology-related job was $92,100 – nearly twice as much as the average private sector job in Virginia.
While the United States faces serious challenges and must make difficult choices to reduce our budget deficit, we must not forget the importance of investing in our public schools. This school year, we should recommit ourselves to investing in our children’s future by renewing our support for public education.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.