When it comes to improving our education system, President Obama talks a good game. But his record leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, Hispanics know this fact all too well. They are intimately aware of our failing schools because they disproportionately bear the consequences.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students lag behind in test scores and face greater high school dropout rates. Unfortunately, our schools have chronically underserved this segment of the population. In a society focused on reaching for opportunities, we all recognize the critical role that education plays in getting ahead. On both sides of the political aisle, education has been identified as the civil rights issue of our generation.
Speaking about the subject last year, President Obama linked the quality of the education received by the Latino community to the well-being of our entire nation. “If our young people are not getting the kind of education they need,” he concluded, “we won’t succeed as a nation.”
His intentions aren’t the problem. I believe the President means well. His policies and their failure to transform our schools in the way he promised are the problem. An inadequate education traps children in poverty, whereas a good one opens doors, unleashes possibilities, and unlocks the American Dream by lifting people out of poverty.
At a time when the poverty rate has soared, turning back the clock several decades, Hispanics have been hit particularly hard. Last year, the Pew Hispanic Center found that the number of Hispanic children in poverty outnumbered any other group. That is unacceptable, and we must look to education as part of the solution.
President Obama has had three and a half years to fix our school system. But the truth is that, given how indebted he is to special interests, President Obama won’t be able to deliver the results that our students need and deserve. In contrast, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will fight to restore the promise of our country’s education system.
It’s clear the Romney/Ryan ticket is committed to ensuring our students have the skills to succeed as it plays a central role in their Plan for a Stronger Middle Class. A Romney administration will ensure Americans have the skills to succeed in school and beyond. That starts by giving every family access to a great school and quality teachers by providing parents greater choice in where to send their children to school. He will also ensure that states create straightforward public report cards that evaluate each school on its contribution to student learning. At the same time, Gov. Romney will help recruit and retain talented teachers by rewarding states that reward good teachers.
But it’s not simply about giving students access to better schools. It’s also about making higher education more affordable. Under President Obama, college tuition has climbed by 25 percent. This has put a college education out of the reach for too many Hispanics. At a time when only about half of recent college graduates can secure full-time work, too many people are finding it difficult to pay back their student loans.
Here, the contrast between the solutions proposed by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and those policies pursued by President Obama is quite simple. President Obama seeks to address the side effects of his own failed policies. He believes that more federal funding, borrowed from China on the backs of the next generation, will cure the burden of unemployment amongst America’s youth. But the truth is, his policies have only made the problems of college affordability and student debt worse, while failing to address the fundamental lack of jobs awaiting students after graduation.
Mitt Romney has a long record of supporting access to higher education. When he was governor of Massachusetts, he established the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship Program. Under that program, those who graduated from high school and passed the graduation exam in the top quarter of their class got a four-year, tuition-free ride at any public institution of higher learning in Massachusetts.
He believes that the way to control costs and ensure opportunity for America’s students is to encourage innovation and competition. As president, Romney will also work to ensure that Pell Grants grow at the rate of inflation so that all Americans – regardless of means – have the opportunity to get a good education. Most importantly, Gov. Romney’s plan to create 12 million jobs by the end of his first term in office will offer far greater opportunities to those entering the workforce.
Four more years of President Obama’s policies will not bring a better future for Hispanics, our children nor our grandchildren. If we want to ensure future generations have the education they deserve and the opportunity they need to be successful, then we must elect Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
Anitere Flores is a Republican member of the Florida Senate, she represents the 38th District.