On March 20, Alliance for Excellent Education President Bob Wise testified before the U. S. Senate Committee on Finance at a hearing entitled “Realizing a Competitive Education: Identifying Needs, Partnerships, and Resources.”
In his opening statement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) discussed the challenges that the nation needs to meet for the future and the role that education can play in helping to meet them.
“America faces a world more integrated, more interdependent, and more competitive, than ever,” Baucus said. “It is our challenge to succeed in this new environment. It is our challenge to create an economy in which investment in our youth is our greatest asset—not our heaviest burden. It is our challenge to leave our children and grandchildren with an economy that is better than the one that we inherited. We must meet this challenge. And meeting this challenge begins with addressing education.”
In his testimony, Wise discussed how the nation’s economy and global competitiveness are adversely impacted by the country’s low graduation rates and poorly prepared high school graduates. He said that the dropout crisis was an “obvious problem for students and parents, but also a major concern to America’s citizens, businesses, and elected officials.” Citing a recent analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education, Wise said that if the 1.2 million high school dropouts from the Class of 2006 had stayed in school and earned their diplomas, the U.S. economy would have seen an additional $309 billion in wages over these students’ lifetimes.
“The realities of global competitiveness, the rapidly diminishing prospects of those students whose high schools fail to prepare them for college and work, and the resulting widening opportunity gap all make high school reform an imperative from an economic, national security, and civil rights perspective,” Wise said. “The time is right for the federal government to take bold leadership in advancing high school reform—leadership that is appropriate to the crisis and in line with the federal government’s tradition of intervening to ensure the security of the nation, reduce poverty, increase equity, and advance research to inform effective practice.”
In outlining steps that the federal government could take to address high school reform, Wise said that the renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act provided Congress with the opportunity to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education that prepares them for the twenty-first century. Specifically, he called for targeting federal funds to improve low-performing secondary schools, meaningful accountability around high school graduation rates, and a greater focus on improving every child’s ability to read and write at grade level.
Other witnesses at the hearing included Jane Karas, president of Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, MT; Accenture Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William D. Green; Greg Taylor, vice president for programs, youth and education at the Kellogg Foundation;Patty Myers, a teacher at Lewis and Clark Elementary in Great Falls, MT; and Steven L. Paine, West Virginia’s superintendent of schools.
Wise’s complete testimony, as well as audio and video of the hearing, is available at https://all4ed.org/events/SenateFinance.02