CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Now that Republicans have settled on a nominee, the presidential race begins in earnest. It's time for both candidates to spell out their positions on a wide range of issues. But this is a two-way street. It's also time for voters to send a clear message -- to federal officials, as well as local and state -- about what they think is important and the solutions they want.
Nowhere is this more important than in the area of education.
Polls tell us that the economy is the number one issue for voters. People are worried: about jobs, bills, college affordability, housing prices and retiring with security. Unfortunately, confidence in leadership is low: 81 percent are dissatisfied with how the country is governed.
But when you dig deeper into public opinion, you find that people think solutions are available. One widely held belief is in the importance of education. For generations, our schools have provided a path to individual and collective success. In today's world, few would dispute that education is central to the health of the nation.
A recent study from the College Board -- conducted in nine swing states by Hart Research Associates and North Star Opinion Research -- provides an interesting and important picture of the American public's view about education and its potential role in the upcoming elections.
Here's some of what the report tells us. First, two-thirds say it is extremely important that education be a major topic in the upcoming elections. Second, more than three-quarters say that education will have a big impact on America's ability to compete successfully in the global economy. Third, improving education is identified as one of the two most important ways to get the economy back on track (the other is reducing our reliance on foreign oil). Fourth, more than three-quarters say we need more money for schools and a majority would be willing to pay additional taxes for education.
Here's the paradox: Lawmakers have not recently been big supporters of education. In fact, over the last few years, both K-12 and higher education budgets have been slashed. At least 43 states imposed cuts to public colleges and universities, resulting in large increases in tuition to make up for insufficient operational funds. A federal report estimates that between 2008 and 2011, nearly 300,000 education jobs have been lost.