Education

As I travel all across the Commonwealth, I meet young people who have done everything right: they played by the rules, they worked hard, they finished college, and yet they're finding themselves unemployed, drowning in debt, and in many cases, moving back home with mom and dad. These young people did all we asked of them - and they're getting slammed.

I grew up in an America that made education a real priority. The generation before me had the GI Bill, which drew thousands into colleges and universities, and thousands more into advanced technical training. The GI Bill helped power the economy for a generation in higher productivity. And when America found itself lagging the Soviets in space exploration, we passed the National Defense Education Act to support getting more kids into college. As a post-Sputnik kid, I graduated from a public university with a lot of help from NDEA.  And when I went into teaching special needs students, the government was willing to forgive 15% of my loans each year.

It has become more and more essential for young people to get some kind of post-high school education - whether college or advanced technical training. We have a choice: are we going to tell our young people that they are on their own, or are we going to invest in them - and in our own future? I believe we must invest in our future, and that means investing more in our public colleges and universities, it means supporting advanced technical training programs, and it means getting serious about strengthening grant programs and forgiving loans for those that serve their communities.

But it is not enough to address the costs of college. Across this Commonwealth, we also have to do more to help our kids before they get to college. My very first job after college was as a special needs teacher in a public elementary school. I saw first-hand how important it is for a child to have great teachers and get a first-rate education. It's why my first love is teaching, and it is why I am appalled at the frequent attacks on public school teachers around this country. A great teacher can make a huge difference in a child's life, and we need to invest in getting great teachers in classrooms everywhere.

We need to go back to seeing education as an investment in our future. We need to support early childhood education, to give kids a fair shot at success from their earliest days. We need to continue support for school lunch programs so that no child needs to worry more about a growling stomach than about an education. We need to experiment with new ways to close the achievement gap. Here in Massachusetts, schools and nonprofits have taken leadership in expanding the school day and supporting after school and summer programs. We need to work collaboratively with teachers - not against them - to improve the performance of students, teachers, and schools.

Good public schools, good community colleges, good public universities, and good technical training can give us a workforce better than any in the world. Well-trained workers are cost effective, and they can give us a powerful competitive advantage in world markets. Investments in our people pay the highest dividends and must become one of our highest priorities.

We have an obligation to improve our schools and prepare our children for all of the challenges - and opportunities - that lie ahead, to support, encourage and reward our educators, and to provide every child with an education that is second to none.