As parents begin to make their final summer plans and prepare to send their kids back to school, I am glad to be in Manchester today to talk about education reform and what is needed to improve our K-12 system.
I believe that every child can learn. Education reform was my passion as governor of Florida and it is the driving reason why I am the most outspoken Republican candidate for president in favor of high standards and accountability for public schools that is driven at the state level.
Right now in America, only one in three high school graduates are college or career ready. Our nation lags the rest of the developed world in important categories like math and science education and millions of low income children are trapped in failing public schools that are denying them the learning opportunities they need to escape poverty and achieve a rewarding life.
While the nation is blessed with many dedicated and quality teachers whose efforts to educate our children are heroic, the union bosses that represent them are an impediment to the reforms we need to improve our public education system.
In Florida, I fought against the teachers union to make my state a pioneer in the school choice movement. We established two statewide voucher programs, one tax-credit scholarship program, and nearly tripled the number of charter schools. We also set high standards and provided financial rewards to schools that met them. Our system of applying an A-F grade to each public school based on student performance provided parents with vital information on how their children’s schools were performing and has been adopted by several other states.
These reforms were met with stiff opposition at every turn by the teachers union in Tallahassee. In fact, the union took out a second mortgage on their headquarters building to fund my opponent in my reelection campaign. But I never backed down and we preserved our reforms. The results speak for themselves. When we first adopted our education reforms, only 21 percent of public schools were rated A or B. When I left office, the number of high-performing schools had increased to 74 percent. And by the end of my administration, 250,000 more students were reading at or above grade level and 250,000 more kids were proficient in math. I am most proud of the fact that our high school graduation rates have increased by nearly fifty percent since the adoption of our education reforms.
Secretary Clinton who has won the endorsement of the most powerful national teachers union will defend the status quo that puts the interests of the education establishment ahead of what’s best for the kids. As president of the United States, I will fight to send money and authority back to the states so governors can expand school choice opportunities and foster more competition in our K-12 education system. This is one of the biggest differences between Hillary Clinton and myself.
My commitment to school choice runs deep. There has been no conservative reformer in America more dedicated to this cause. I am all in on school choice because I know how important it is to children from all walks of life.
Denisha Merriwether from Jacksonville, Florida is an example of how school choice can transform lives. By the time Denisha was in the third grade, she had failed twice, and was on a path to lifetime of poverty when her grandmother learned of a voucher program we had established in Florida. Once Denisha changed schools, her life began to change as well. Denisha quickly became a star student, earning a place on the honor roll. She went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from high school and later, from college.
I know how hard Secretary Clinton and the teachers union will fight to defend the status quo. They should be forewarned that I will fight even harder for the Denisha Merriwethers of America who deserve a chance to learn so they can achieve the American dream.
This is an important debate that we need to have in America and I am prepared to lead the charge on making school choice more available in our nation.