Start early in the life of a child and use standards to create accountability.
Question: How would you make our students more globally competitive?
Bill Richardson: Well you start early. You start with pre-school for every child under four. I did this in my state, and I would do it as President. I would have a full-day kindergarten. I would try to make kids healthier by having no junk food in schools. I would also ensure that we create 250 science and math academies where students and teachers learn stronger proficiency in science and math. I’d hire 100,000 new science and math teachers. But what I would also do is pay our teachers better. They’re paid a miserable amount. They’re disrespected. I’d have a minimum wage of $40,000 per year. And I would get rid of No Child Left Behind because I believe that that “one size fits all” testing hurts students. It hurts English learning students. It hurts special needs students, gifted students. And then it punishes schools that are not doing well. If a school isn’t doing well, I try to help that school. And so I would have national standards that would work with state and local standards to create accountability and create some kind of gauge about how our students are doing. But I don’t believe that No Child Left Behind is . . . is redeemable. It’s . . . it should be eliminated.
And finally what I would do is for college students, I’ve set up a program where I would say that in exchange for two years of tuition, I would have students – to pay off that tuition from the government loans – one year of national service for the country. Work in a hospital; do action type of work; clean up a forest; join the military. I think we have to bring that back. American people are ready to sacrifice, and they need to be inspired. And linking education to college loans, and to work, and to helping the country would be a major goal of my administration.
Recorded on: 11/20/07