“Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. David Trone not only believes that, he lives by it. With so many people who seem bent on destroying public education, it’s so important to have someone who champions it. We need David Trone in Congress.”
– Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley
Education has played a critical role in my life. It gave me the opportunity to go from working on a struggling family farm to starting a successful business. Every child should have that same opportunity, regardless of where they start in life. But too many don’t get this opportunity because of their race or socioeconomic status, disability, or because they are from a rural area.
That’s why, in Congress, I’ve made it one of my top priorities to continue to invest in world-class education for every student across the country. In my first term, I was proud to serve on the Education and Labor Committee — ensuring that Congress was thinking long-term and investing in our students, our educators, and our schools. In partnership with my friend Senator Cardin, we introduced legislation modeled after the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, with the goal of taking that vision nationwide.
I’ve also made it my focus to ensure that every student has access to the mental and behavioral health support that they need — an issue made even worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. I introduced legislation to provide comprehensive mental health to every student. And it’s my goal to get it across the finish line.
Too often politicians are focused on doing what helps them win the next election when they should be focused on what helps the next generation. We need to innovate and try new approaches, set high standards for students, teachers, and administrators, and pay teachers as if our future depends on it – because it does.
There’s no question that higher income kids start off with an advantage before Kindergarten even begins. One study shows that higher income kids will have heard 30 million more words by age three than their low-income peers. We need early education, not just early care.
Unfortunately, politicians are all-too-eager to skimp on early childhood education to save a few dollars in the short term. The inability of even progressive states like Maryland, which only has public pre-k for 41% of 4-year-olds, to ensure all children are ready for kindergarten demonstrates the need for a national solution.
Pre-k is one of the best investments government can make. Oklahoma implemented a Universal Pre-K program in 1998, and a decade-long study conducted by Georgetown University researchers showed that students who participate are ahead of their peers in reading, writing, and math.
Close the Achievement Gap
In addition to universal pre-k there are other steps that we must take to close the achievement gap. In too many places across the country, schools are funded by local property taxes, which puts schools in poor neighborhoods at a disadvantage. That’s why I support increases in Title I federal funding for schools that serve low-income students to help level the playing field.
I also support a strong federal Department of Education so that it can provide consistent nationwide guardrails while still encouraging state flexibility and innovation. Laws like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensure accountability for all students, including those with disabilities. We must make sure every student has access to a good education and is held to high standards and expectations.
We also need to consider innovative programs like community schools that provide programs like health and social services and community development. These schools are open outside of normal school hours and the programs are available to anyone who needs them.
Broadband access is also a crucial component of closing the achievement gap in rural areas. In the 21st century broadband is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Every student should have broadband access at school and at home.
My mother was a public school teacher, and I know how hard teachers work to make sure the next generation has the best opportunities.
I took out student loans to help pay for graduate school. Back then, the debt was reasonable, and you could work to pay it off after graduation. But today, Americans carry an average of $30,000 in student debt. This is bad for students and bad for the economy. Young people can’t buy their first homes or their first cars because of their crippling student loan debt.
We should protect and expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSFL) program so that students who go into public service careers can get out of debt. And for students who want to work in other sectors, let’s expand federally subsidized loan programs and educate students about their options so that they don’t fall victim to predatory lenders.
Community College and Career Readiness
I support free community college. Garrett County has had free community college for years, and their program has helped spur economic growth in the county. There’s no reason we can’t make this available to every American. While Maryland has taken some recent steps to expand community college access, it’s still an area we can continue to improve upon so everyone will have access to a good education.
We should also make investments in career readiness for all students, including students with disabilities and regardless of whether or not students graduate with a full diploma. There are opportunities for students with all different skills, and everyone has something to contribute to society.
We also need to expand skilled trade and apprenticeship opportunities for high school students. Students who have these opportunities can be ready for the job market upon graduation. Middle College High School Programs, like the one Prince George’s County opened in 2011, can provide these opportunities.
We need to do more to recruit, train, and retain high quality teachers.
Investing in Teachers
My mother was a public-school teacher, and I know how much hard work teachers invest in making sure the next generation has the best opportunities. We need to do more to recruit, train, and retain high quality teachers.
The first step is recruiting talented people to become teachers. Many young people are interested in the profession but won’t go into it because of heavy student debt burdens. Let’s create loan forgiveness programs for people who agree to become teachers and teach for five years.
Next, we should ensure that teachers have appropriate training and support. I support inclusive education from preschool through 12th grade and beyond, as well as expanding inclusive postsecondary education to ensure every student can thrive. I support incentives for comprehensive teacher residency programs that provide hands-on training. I also support funding for professional development and continuing education opportunities for teachers, in both general and special education.
Finally, we need to offer teachers competitive pay that’s in line with comparable professions. In business, I’ve always paid my people more than our competitors. It costs more initially, but it also reduces turnover which helps us better serve our customers.
Unfortunately, teachers are paid almost $1,700 less per year now than they were in 2000. When teacher salaries aren’t competitive, talented teachers leave the profession, and it’s our kids who pay the price. Paying teachers what they deserve is the right thing to do, and it’s a good investment.