National security issue

Speaking of school choice:

The nation's security and economic prosperity are at risk if America's schools don't improve, warns a task force led by former Republican Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, the former New York City school chancellor who wrote a book about his experience in the first Bill Clinton presidential campaign.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, offers a warning: "The dominant power of the 21st century will depend on human capital," and, "The failure to produce that capital will undermine American security."

The task force concluded the State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies face critical shortfalls in foreign language speakers, and that fields such as science, defense and aerospace are at particular risk because a shortage of skilled workers is expected to worsen as baby boomers retire.

Why? In large part, public schools are to blame.

The task force, consisting of 30 members with backgrounds in education and foreign affairs, was organized by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The panel's recommendations included structural changes to provide students with more choices in where they can go to school and a national security readiness audit, prepared by governors.

The response from the education establishment was instructive. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was a member of the panel, but argued that any "national audit" will only increase the pressure to focus on standardized tests. And, she said, school choice options "undermine" the public schools.

It could hardly get more clear: The performance of the public schools has become so bad that even a bipartisan, middle-of-the road panel says the low educational attainment of our younger generations threatens American security.

Yet the leader of a major teacher union will still tolerate no talk of granting children and their families any freedom of movement to seek better schools. It's "all for the children," you see -- just don't test us on our results, or give families the option of seeking more effective schooling elsewhere.


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