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In the Battle for Our Future, It's Time for Education Bonds

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Letter to: President Barack Obama
From: Dr. Idit Harel Caperton
Date: March 16, 2012

Dear Mr. President,

As I'm sure I don't have to tell you, Americans invented the idea of issuing government debt securities to help finance action in a national emergency. Both sides in the American Civil War issued War Bonds to fund the fighting, and by World War I, the rest of the world had followed suit.

America's Liberty Bonds in World War I and the Defense Bonds of World II did more than just generate capital to pay for military equipment and operations. They also gave the entire population the chance to contribute directly to the war effort and thereby feel involved in their national militaries.

Along the way, those bondholders built up their savings and received a return on their investment.

I believe the nation faces a national emergency today -- an education emergency -- and we are told there is "not enough money in the system" to respond effectively to this emergency. I think it is not too far-fetched to say that even as our armed forces withdraw, under your leadership, from two costly overseas military struggles, we need to fight an equally important war here at home -- and to engage the entire population in that war.

Photo (Right): A 1918 United States poster advertising World War Liberty Bonds (Source: Wikipedia)

The emergency is in the fact that we are playing catch-up -- not so much with other nations as with the future. Catch-up in STEM disciplines. Catch-up in the technical skills all our kids need in the digital economy of a globalized internet age. Catch-up in cultivating the capabilities of critical analysis, problem-solving, innovation, and collaborative cooperation -- essential if kids are to succeed in the economic and civic communities in which they will live and lead. As you know better than anyone, Mr. President, it is today's students who will be the losers if their nation doesn't win the catch-up war, now.

That makes it everybody's emergency and everybody's war. So I have a proposal: why not give everybody a chance to contribute through Education Bonds? The money raised through these bonds could finance a large-scale, transformative effort to cure the public education system. It could replenish the coffers of such White House initiatives as Educate to Innovate, Change the Equation, Early Childhood, or Race to the Top. Or the bonds might fund other national, state, and local initiatives that can compensate for the educational inequality gap now widening between economically well-served, top-performing students in specific zipcodes and those who are less privileged and successful -- so we can keep the gap from turning into a war.

The need is urgent. Through Education Bonds, all of us can become stakeholders in meeting the need over the long term. We'll get a dollar return on our investment, will help develop good citizens, and will realize an incalculable dividend for our nation and the world.

Sincerely,

Idit Harel Caperton