Although education funding is a frequently discussed topic, an often ignored reality is that, like healthcare, we pay more for education than most other nations. And also like healthcare, what we receive in return is of lower value. America ranks far below other Western countries in terms of math, science and humanities. School funding may be high, but it's far from uniform. Many teachers are paid far lower than they're worth and sometimes have to pay out of pocket for remedial school supplies - yet teachers unions and tenure tracks prevent adequate reform and keep less effective educators in place.
These problems have complicated origins and passionate perspectives. To solve them, we intend to look outwardly to another industry that has found ways to retain top talent with the ability to solve complicated challenges under stressful conditions: software.
Teaching is regarded as one of the most difficult occupations in the world, and as a result requires a certain type of personality and character to perform. You need to be able to solve difficult tasks under pressure, multitask and prioritize problems that are made worse by unforeseen complications. The software industry is similar in many regards, and has addressed this problem through a simple solution: high pay with high standards. We believe the same should be true with teachers.
Our education model seeks to subsidize teacher salaries to a level competitive enough that it attracts the best and brightest, which we would provisionally set at $75,000 per year. Additionally, as with doctors and first responders, we intend to extend special income tax breaks to teachers - further incentivizing employment. Education can't be some secondary consideration in public service; teachers raise our children to excel in a globalized economy and if we're not willing to make that investment than we will be eventually defeated by foreign nations that will and do.
But by paying for top talent we must expect top talent, which requires us to set universal performance standards. Some of the standards we would propose include reviews by their students, colleagues and administrators. But the most important benchmark we'd propose is a revamping of standardized testing, and using these tests to assess school performance from a different angle.
The Alliance Party was founded by Americans young enough to personally remember the surge of standardized tests within the past 25 years. Very few of us look back on them fondly. We spent all year teaching for the test, because school funding was tied to performance. So instead of learning what we should, we learned how to score well on the standardized test. As much of America reflects today, that trend has only gotten worse.
We propose stopping this by effectively reversing the function of standardized tests. In our model, federal education services would outline general benchmarks on what a student should be capable of knowing by a certain grade level, and have generic tests based on that which vary significantly from year to year to limit predictive teaching. We wouldn't tie school funding to school performance, but we would directly investigate school districts that noticeably underperformed to find out why.
That 'why' could be any number of things, but regardless of the cause it's a problem that needs to be solved. If that school district transparently lacks funds, we'll fund it. If it transparently needs new equipment, we'll buy it. If teachers are ineffective or noticeably underperforming compared to national standards, they'll be shown the door. If it's in a high-crime neighborhood and kids miss school because they're unsafe, those remedies will be provided and they will be provided effectively.
On these tests, the information we would seek verified would be transparently assembled by education professionals and issued in different formats every year. Schools aren't supposed to teach to a test, they're supposed to teach knowledge, and any standardized test proposed in our model would be there to determine the quality of knowledge taught nationwide. In doing so, the information we'd seek verified would treat established facts as such - and would tie federal education funding to their acceptance. That means evolution is not contested. The Earth is not flat. And history will not be whitewashed for ideological preferences. If state education programs seek to teach students false and contrarian information, we will not stop them, but we would work to ensure that federal funds be withheld for doing so.