Hurd On The Hill: Education - A National Priority

February 23, 2015
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns

From kindergarten through college at Texas A&M, I’m a proud product of the Texas public education system. I was fortunate to attend schools with dedicated teachers and my parents took my education very seriously. But not every child is as lucky as I was. Many don’t have the same opportunities to learn from the best, preparing them for life and the chance to move up the ladder of success in our country. This is not only a travesty for these individuals; it’s bad news for our nation.

Education opportunity is a national security priority. For decades, America has led the world in technological innovation, giving us a constant edge on the world’s stage when it came to economic and military strength. But while other nations make progress in these areas, America faces the possibility of slipping behind. When I was an undercover officer in the CIA, I was behind enemy lines and I know for a fact that ourenemies would love nothing more than for the United States to no longer be the world’s leader in innovation. The next generation of creators, inventors, and producers won’t exist unless we take pains now to ensure every child has the opportunity for a first-class education.

Education inequality is the main reason we have income inequality. In a nation as prosperous as ours, there’s really no excuse for this to continue. Children have little to no control over their economic circumstances, so making sure that schools with large populations of disadvantaged and low-income children are able to provide a quality education will have long-term positive effects for both the communities the schools service and the nation as a whole.

Allowing more innovative, outside-of-the-box thinking in our schools will also help prepare students for an ever changing world and the ability to compete on a global scale. Many teachers want to do more, but are shackled by 19th century educational practices and a culture of “teaching to the test”. It’s time for our Industrial Age public school system to move into the 21st Century.

This week in Congress, we're voting on a bill that will move us in the right direction on education. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) will streamline testing assessments for students, while giving more power to the states and local school districts to make decisions that make the most sense for their children.

School choice is also key to making sure children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Parents want the best education possible for their children, so giving them greater ability to choose where their children are educated is just plain common sense.  It’s a mistake to consign students to failing schools because of a simple matter of geography. 

It’s also a mistake to punish working-class families who have scrimped and saved for their children’s education by taxing those savings. Every parent wants the next generation to do better than they have and for the first time in our nation, many parents feel that their children may actually be worse off. Hindering their ability to responsibly save for college could turn their fear into a reality.

Our nation’s education system didn’t become the finest in the world because of top-down government control, and we won’t get back to the top if we cede authority to faceless bureaucrats in Washington. I will work hard for reform in Congress that emphasizes local authority, empowering teachers, parents and students to make choices that are in their best interest. Our children deserve nothing less.

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A former undercover CIA agent, small business owner and cybersecurity expert, Will Hurd is the U.S. Representative for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas. In Washington, he serves as Vice Chair of the Maritime and Border Security Subcommittee on the Committee for Homeland Security, and as the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.