Better Education Is the Best Jobs Bill

04/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Policymakers in Washington, D.C., are scrambling to re-energize the economy and get America back to work. Clearly, that's the right thing to do. But it is important to remember that the long-term health of our economy depends not just on creating more good jobs but also on making sure that Americans are prepared to fill them. That's why we can't afford to blink in staring down those who wish to elevate the interests of adults over those of children in our public schools. Our national prosperity literally depends on both raising overall achievement and closing the gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from others.

Just last week, a study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggested that investing in educational improvements could yield enormous gains in a country's economic health, with dividends compounding far into the future. Even modest gains in learning, the study projected, could boost America's gross domestic product by $40.6 trillion over the lifetime of students born today.

And here's the flip side: What our children don't learn hits our nation in the wallet. Last year, a McKinsey & Company report showed that our achievement gaps have a crippling effect on our economy. The impact of these gaps, the study says, is roughly equivalent to a permanent national recession.

Behind both studies is one compelling idea: Our nation's fortunes are bound inextricably to how well we educate our children. Not just some of our children. Not just the fortunate few. But all of our children.

Today, we learned the details of the president's education budget proposal. Its focus on preparing all students for college and a career shows this administration understands that a well-educated citizenry is the bedrock of our economic and civic well-being. We'll soon learn more details about the administration's proposals for re-authorization. It is imperative that these proposals incorporate aggressive reforms, in much the same way as has the Race to the Top competition.