Eric Doden Op-Ed: A Bold Conservative Vision for Hoosier Education

Our nation’s school-age children deserve better. Nationally, test scores are declining, teachers are fleeing the profession and too many students are being left behind. The system is failing to provide the tools needed for the workforce, today and in the near future.

As a conservative, I believe there are common-sense solutions that can turn this around and give every child access to a quality education – in either a public or private school.

First, parents must have the freedom of school choice. That means charter schools, opportunity scholarships, education savings accounts, and vouchers – anything that breaks the government monopoly on schools and allows parents to make the best education decision for their child.

Indiana has been a leader in school choice. I will protect and promote educational freedom for Indiana families, especially for disadvantaged students trapped in failing schools.

Second, politics does not belong anywhere near the classroom. We must let teachers teach and parents parent.

Our schools can never become indoctrination centers obsessed with identity politics and divisive ideologies, rather than teaching students fundamentals such as reading, writing, science, math and critical thinking. The classroom should be for education, period.

I’ll ensure curriculum transparency so that every parent has access to what their kids are being taught.

Third, teachers are the backbone of our education system. We need to retain and recruit great teachers. Pay and prestige for this noble profession have declined while politics have increased.

From elementary school through my years at Hillsdale College, there are countless teachers who helped me along the way. Our goal will always be to guarantee that every child is served by the best and brightest teachers. Our plan would expand merit pay, remove divisive politics and provide tax relief to address this teacher shortage crisis.

Finally, half the state budget is funding for K-12 schools.

But we are failing to provide more freedom to parents of 4-year-olds and 17- and 18-year-olds.

Conservatives should make the beginning and end of public school the next focus of education reform by providing innovative and local approaches to early education and the transition out of high school.

Studies show Indiana saves $4 in future costs for every dollar invested in education opportunities for children ages 3 to 5.

We will provide state matching funds for any community that wants to create high-quality pre-K programs for 4-year-olds. By incentivizing local collaboration, innovation and investment, we will foster community-based solutions that will neither break our state’s budget nor dictate one-size-fits-all approaches to local communities.

At the same time, we need to better support students in their final year of high school to ensure college or career readiness.

I will support funding collaborative partnerships with public, private and philanthropic organizations to create new models such as gap-year programs and local job training and apprenticeship opportunities to help students make the transition successfully to college or a career post-graduation.

Education built America into the most prosperous nation in history. With smart reforms focused on empowering parents, removing politics, supporting teachers and prioritizing early education, conservatives can help get America’s schools back on track.

Indiana’s future depends on it.

Eric Doden of Fort Wayne is a Republican candidate for Indiana governor.

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