Photo by Darin Swimm, aide to Rep. Tierney
Congressman John Tierney was in Peabody on Tuesday afternoon with Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt, and a host of educators from all levels around the state for an open discussion on the current condition of public and private education in the U.S., and what the future could hold.
Rep. Tierney, a Democrat currently serving his eighth term in the House, is the only Massachusetts member currently on the Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Presidents of post-secondary education institutions, principals and teachers from early learning through high school, school board members, stakeholders, trustees, and others invested in education came with questions, concerns and suggestions for Rep. Tierney and Under Secretary Kanter.
Here is some of what they had to say:
On high school graduation rates...
Kanter: "There is a child who drops out, from ninth to twelfth grade...across the country every 22 seconds, and we lose a million children every year in high school. So what we've got to do...just say 'no.' This community, just say 'no, we are not going to allow anyone to drop out,' period. And it's going to be hard for kids who are less prepared and don't have the family structures and all the things that have to happen in K-12 while we're raising standards and trying to simplify some of the bureaucracy that K-12 has to face.
"We're going to keep focused on helping every child achieve grade level and growing the school system so that the school's can be supported by the leadership that you have here."
On college graduation rates and the importance of post-secondary education...
Kanter: "More than 60 percent of jobs are going to require education beyond high school. So first we have to get [students] ready for elementary school, we've got to get them through elementary, middle and high school, and then we've got to get more students graduating from college. On a national level, if you compare us to other countries, we were first in the world in my generation, a generation ago, and now we're 16th.
"Education and work are going to have to be connected much more fundamentally as we move forward in the country...more than half of college students are working today...we really need the integration of work, that's why [President Obama] proposed doublilng work study funding, so that students can have a job...help pay back the loans that they may need to take, and learn in the fields of study that they're interested in."
Photo by Darin Swimm, aide to Rep. Tierney
On regulating for-profit schools...
Tierney: "We recently tried one action in the healthcare area. One of the things we put in the healthcare bill...we said to insurance companies they have to spend no less than 80 percent of the premium money they brought in on health services...only the other 20 percent can you spend on administration, bonuses, lobbyists, whatever else you're going to do.
"Now [we] are looking at trying to draft something with the private profit schools as well. Trying to find a way that we can put a piece of legislation in that says that they have to spend a certain amount of their tuition money and fees, or whatever else they want to call them, on actual education efforts of getting their kids through school and to an end result of graduating, and less on whether they're going out advertising, trying to entice people in, whatever else they're doing with salaries and bonuses...and we think that we're already on to something there on the healthcare side of it...if we can do something in the area of education as well, I think that would be helpful."
On technology in schools...
Tierney: "We haven't figured it out yet, we're trying desperately. The way we did it at the higher education level back years ago we put a provision in for grants for public education institutions because they didn't have the endowments that a lot of private schools had. So private schools were going out investing in the white boards and the other technology aspects and moving on, but public higher education institutions didn't have it.
"Salem State took advantage of it, I know some of the community colleges did as well...but I know from speaking to the folks at Salem State that [technology] is already obsolete. And so now you're into the next iteration of where you get the next batch of money to try and move forward on that basis, and we don't have the answers to that yet."