- Encourage states to improve teacher salaries
- Shift focus away from uniform national tests and regulations
First, I should make this clear: Education is and always has been primarily under the jurisdiction of the states. Here in Arizona, we are suffering from a massive shortage of teachers. The education budget in this state is simply insufficient to offer decent pay to attract educators to our schools. Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about this problem at the national level. For now, the best solution to the education crisis in Arizona is for the citizens to pressure their state legislature and governor to make a real effort to prioritize education or, if the existing politicians won't do it, elect people who will.
That said, the most important step to improving education in the country is to make teaching a desirable profession.
Currently, we do a good job of saying how much we honor teachers and the work they do. However, we don't back that up in any tangible way. Generally, teachers are paid poorly, work in abysmal conditions, are overworked, and are expected to comply with an unending list of regulations. Some may never afford to pay off their student loans in their lifetimes. Most people are scared away from the idea of teaching before they even begin, and many more quit after only a few years. This simply can't go on.
I propose we shift the focus of the Department of Education away from national standardized tests and regulations. Instead, we should focus on giving states incentives to improve teacher pay, perhaps with financial incentives offered toward states that meet or exceed a minimum teacher salary across their state. If we can make teacher salaries attractive enough so that people compete for teaching positions, then all schools will be able to start hiring for quality, not just those in rich neighborhoods.