When corporations vie for headlines by touting strong quarterly earnings, they skip long-term investments that would support sustained profitability. As a businessman and media personality, President Trump knows this.
He also knows that’s no strategy to make America great. If he’s looking to make bold change, he should propose investments for the next generation that strengthen our competitiveness. These options are early childhood, aligning school spending to need, and youth employment.
HUGELY POPULAR, HUGELY EFFECTIVE
Early childhood is a popular issue that earned Trump headlines when he and First Daughter Ivanka visited the state. He could leverage that popularity with a plan that would deliver for hard working families and produce long term economic gains. Nobel-winning economist James Heckman has proven high quality early learning investments outperform other programs to boost economic stability for decades.
The key to growth here is investing in quality. An expansion in access to child care without a quality guarantee means the country’s CEO is willing to flood the market with cheap knock-offs.
BEST SAVINGS OPPORTUNITY EVER
Neither President Trump nor his pick for Secretary of Education has much faith in the schools that educate 50 million students, so they plan to put $20 billion in vouchers for private schools (which is a lot compared to $76 billion in federal funds that currently flow to all public schools). But the new spending will only reach 4% of students.
Unfortunately, there is limited interest among secular private schools to enroll thousands of public school students, especially in the communities President Trump claims will be served. Further keeping it from being a big league plan is that 36 states have constitutional bans on funding religious education.
There’s a smarter way to reach 4% of kids that will save us the $20 billion: limiting the use of federal funds to schools that enroll most of the nation’s low income students. Federal dollars are designated to address funding inequity but the current rules don’t guarantee funds go to where they’re needed.
This approach meets conservative principles for shrinking the role of the federal government in education and avoiding wasteful government spending.
BIGGEST JOBS PROGRAM EVER
Finally, a better education for kids today means they must also learn how to work. President Trump was among America’s fortunate sons who found their first job in their family business. Federal policy can’t do that everyone, but it can create the opportunity to have a job before graduating high school.
Although we know teens who work part-time are more likely to graduate high school, minority youth face a 30% unemployment rate and summer jobs programs turn away thousands every year. If we want youth to grow up without an expectation of a government handout, President Trump must find the resources for every teen to earn the work experience that served him so well.
National security fears and the pressing demands to boost American economic growth quickly are likely to take center stage. But if the president focuses on these issues alone, he will be guilty of the same fatal flaw of playing the short game that infuriated many of his voters. We all want and deserve more than business as usual.
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