Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Clearly, the system is not working. What America needs are weapons of mass instruction.

This is a crisis, As Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted, “there is a tremendous sense of urgency because we can't wait….Our children have just one chance to get a quality education.” For many, that chance is passing them by.

Eight years ago, when I was pregnant with my second child, my husband and I set out to buy a larger home. Like all prospective homebuyers, we had quite a few “wants” on our list, (large yard, low traffic and low price), some of which were not achievable. But we had one criterion that was more important than all the others: The house had to be located in a good public school district. Like many parents in our neighborhood, we made tradeoffs to move into such a house – my 1955 stove, Formica kitchen counters and fake brick linoleum might not be the latest fashion, but they work and helped make our home affordable.

Education provides students with a chance to learn, and a chance to earn credentials. What the degrees and certificates provide is witness to the world that you are able to finish the program, are persistent, work hard, and have the ability to buckle down and focus when needed.

Our public education system was championed by Thomas Jefferson, who said in 1817 that the plan was proposed to “to avail the commonwealth of those talents and virtues which nature has sown as liberally among the poor as rich, and which are lost to their country by the want of means for their cultivation."

There are 46,000 children in Washington DC’s public schools and 50 million students in public schools nationwide. Unfortunately, our current system leaves many students’ talents and virtues undiscovered, uncultivated and unused.

It is time to get serious, get tough and transform our public schools so all children can have a quality education.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.