I had the chance to see my high school physics and calculus teacher, Pat Chang, in Easley this week. She was gracious enough to attend a press conference my campaign held on the topic of public education.
Ms. Chang was a great teacher, and the things I learned in her classes have helped me immensely in my career. She provided me with a foundation in science and math that carried over to my education at Clemson University. I majored in engineering and went on to become a pilot.
That’s my dream for all children: To have supportive, talented teachers who support students as they explore exciting opportunities and strive to reach their goals. And I think it can happen. Indeed, there are many public education success stories we need to celebrate.
As a science and math person, I’m particularly excited about the STEM — that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — programs we see
taking hold in a number of our school districts. These programs are pushing students to learn about academic and career fields that will boost America’s
vitality in decades to come. And they receive funding from the federal government.
In many ways, education is a local concern. Schools are a reflection of the people they serve, and communities should have say-so in the direction of the schools their children attend. But the federal government has an appropriate role to play, especially when it comes to promoting cutting-edge opportunities for students — like the STEM programs. I’ve read that in China, roughly 40 percent of college students are engineering majors; in the US, it’s only about six percent. The right priorities and incentives can help us boost these numbers.
In addition, public money ought to stay in the public school system. Out-of-state forces have poured money into the campaigns of politicians, including my opponent, who are willing to push for so-called choice. What this has come to mean is giving government money to people who already have their children in private school, as well as other schemes that guarantee nothing to our state’s neediest families. It’s an outrageously costly idea — and it’s not the best way to improve education across-the-board in our communities.
The fact is that there are no easy answers. But hard work and common-sense solutions need to be at the forefront. And with the right leadership, I believe we will see many more innovations and success stories in the years to come. Public schools can be wonderful places to teach and learn — just ask Ms. Chang and the many students she reached over the years.