Our future depends on action, not photo-ops and empty words

By: Ed Potosnak

Innovation is the key to reclaiming America’s role on the cutting edge of the global economy and this innovation must begin in our schools.

As a teacher, scientist and small business owner, I know the challenges and opportunities in American public education.

In America we invented things like the steamboat, the telegraph, the transistor, the airplane, frozen food, the computer, air-conditioning, and the bread slicer. Today, we are falling behind, as more than half of U.S. patents are awarded to foreign companies. Swift action is required if we are going to stay on top and ahead of our international competition. The strength and vitality of our future economy depend on improving our schools today.

We need highly qualified and well supported teachers in every classroom. These educators are the key to our students’ academic success and our nation’s economic future. Our teachers should not be judged based only on one-time, high stakes tests that evaluate a single narrow snapshot of student achievement. Instead we need an accountability system that rewards the consistent progress of schools by evaluating student growth over the long-term. All of us – teachers, students, parents, educational leaders, and policy makers – need to come together to ensure what we value as a nation is reflected in our assessment of how we educate all our children for a fast-paced, interconnected global economy.

Unlike the extensive standardized testing regimen that sweeps New Jersey’s public schools each May, organizations like FIRST Robotics inspire our young people’s interest in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology. We should all be proud that CNN recently featured the magnificent work being done by staff and students at Montgomery High School in its special report “Don’t Fail Me: Education in America.” There, students’ interests are nurtured and developed with guidance from excellent teachers and business community mentors.

The successes achieved at Montgomery and other schools in the 7th district notwithstanding, business leaders interviewed for the program echoed my concern that we are not preparing students for the realities of the 21st century global marketplace.

My opponent, Congressman Leonard Lance, is stifling our schools and their efforts to foster innovation. Representative Lance visited the FIRST Robotics team at Hillsborough High School last month. Although the visit made for a wonderful photograph, his voting record demonstrates Mr. Lance on the wrong side of education over and over again. Most recently the House passed FY2011 funding bill and the FY2012 budget proposal, which he supported. These bills will devastate the work of students and teachers by drastically slashing funding for programs that provide opportunities for our most at-risk students, denying them access to early childhood education, special education services, and higher education. Mr. Lance is putting partisan politics and where he fits into the new Republican majority ahead of the needs of our students, families, businesses, and our Nation’s future.

The future of America depends on the education we provide today and we need to act with urgency to improve our schools and foster innovation. We must ensure that every single child in America is prepared to help our nation overcome the challenges of the modern world, innovate, and lead the global economy.

Ed Potosnak unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7) last year and this month announced his decision to run again in 2012.  Our future depends on action, not photo-ops and empty words