The public school system is failing those who need it most

Lauren and I went to a lunch yesterday and met with US Senator Michael Bennet.

Senator Bennet talked about a number of things but I felt much of his passion around his desire to fix our public schools. Prior to becoming Senator he was the superintendent for the Denver Public Schools.

He had a balanced view about the blame (all of us adults, not the kids) but he first shared a few data points to make the point loud & clear. Here’s some of the things I learned.

-70% of 8th readers don’t read at their grade level

-a nine year old from a low income family is already 3 years behind their high income peers and has a 1 in 2 chance of graduating high school and 1 in 10 chance of finishing college

– 1.2M of our students drop out of high school every year. Globally we rank 20th amongst industrial nations for high school graduations. Forty years ago we were first

Great education starts with the best teachers. And we are not helping recruit and keep our best teachers either. Current salaries are beyond ridiculous for teachers. We need to fix that. Teacher unions and the administrators need to ditch their current power struggles for the old discussion and ditch sacred cows. They aren’t working. Currently half of our public school teachers quit in the first five years.

There were many more stats and facts shared but the Senator’s punchline was clear when he said, "Our public education system, as designed, does not work well enough for all children in this country, and, for our poorest children, barely works at all.“

I am fortunate that our kids live in a town where we have good public schools. And I am hardly the expert in public school matters across our nation. I learned a lot yesterday about things I knew in my gut. I need to learn more about these issues and how we can help.

I am convinced the first step is stand up and acknowledge the current model isn’t working. We can’t accept it. We can do better.

We made a campaign contribution yesterday. I think Senator Bennet is exceptionally bright and believe he’s focused on the right issues. I hope he keeps his office next year.