04/16/2008 12:24 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

All Eyes on Pennsylvania: The Big Debate

This Wednesday, millions of viewers will tune into ABC to watch what could be the last presidential primary debate of the season. While some will surely express relief that the primary season is one step closer to the end -- others will closely watch the candidates' proposed solutions to fix our nation's problems. As we approach this Philadelphia debate, the nation's attention is focused on the economy and the subprime mortgage disaster. However, it's critical to understand, that this crisis will not be solved unless comprehensive education reform is discussed and enacted. For, one of the root causes of our disastrous economy is our mediocre educational system.

Now, some of you might be arguing that the state of education in America has no current impact on our economy. However, that thinking is completely reckless. Take a look at the world -- America is getting soft and loosing its status as the global leader. In today's high-tech global economy, students will not only compete for jobs with their neighbors -- they will also compete with students across the world. America's outdated schools threaten our economic future. If the next President truly wants to boost our economy, he or she must focus on reforming our schools.

In our latest PISA scores, the United States ranked 25th in math and 21st in science out of 30 industrialized nations. That's pathetic for a country who, not too long ago, was the world leader in education. With statistics like that, it's no wonder why American CEOs are having trouble finding qualified workers to hire. We're in a new age in America. This is no longer the time when you can graduate from high school and automatically get a job down the street with your neighbor's business. Today with our "flat" world our students compete for jobs with other students from around the world and because of this, it's imperative that our students are adequately prepared for college, work and life.

Americans understand that education is the crux of all the issues facing our country and they want to hear the candidates' long-term solutions for solving the crisis. Hispanics and women have both said that education is the most important issue for them this election cycle. Also, a recent USA Today / Gallop Poll has education ranked as the third most important issue, topping 11 others.

So being that Americans want to hear the candidates' plans to reform our education system and that solid education is the basis for solving the complex issues our country is currently facing, I'd like to suggest the types of questions that should be asked of the candidates Wednesday evening.

Global Standards

Having more rigorous standards in our classroom is the only way we can better compete with countries like China and India. We need to make sure that our students are not only getting a good education, but that the education they are getting adequately prepares them for college and work. To ensure this, the candidates need to explain their plans for creating more rigorous standards and preparing our children for the 21st century.


Teachers are the backbone of the education system and the United States is going to be required to find a way to recruit nearly three million teachers on top of retaining the qualified teachers that are currently in the classroom. Put simply, the candidates need to explain their ideas for guaranteeing an effective teacher in every classroom

School Choice and Charter Schools

Charter and magnet schools are less regulated than traditional public schools and therefore are able to experiment with innovated hiring policies and redesigned school schedules and curriculum. Some charter schools have shown tremendous growth in student achievement while some others still need improvement. The candidates need to tell the American public if they support public school choice and, if so, what types of innovation they would like to see in a non-traditional public school.

America's currently at a crossroads -- our economy is struggling and our global standing is diminishing. We owe our students the adequate resources to prepare them to compete and succeed in school and life. We need our top notch students of engineering, math and science to solve complex problems and discover innovative solutions. This debate will provide the candidates ample opportunity to address America's education crisis. I'll be watching it very closely Wednesday to see if this happens.