The key to economic growth in the Central Valley is education.
Our percentages of high school and college graduates are among the lowest in California. As a result, many people are unqualified for the job market. This is our most serious long-term challenge.
Businesses lack a pool of sufficiently educated workers. Young people need good jobs, but often lack the skills to get them. We must bridge that gap. The obvious answer is to improve the performance of public schools. That requires more than lip service. We need to make education a top fiscal priority.
Our ability to compete in the global marketplace depends on an educated population. China, India and other developing nations are certainly not cutting back on their colleges or universities. Silicon Valley and the rest of California industry can’t rely on immigrant work visas to populate the ranks of scientists and engineers. If we don’t invest in our future, who will?
I would sponsor legislation providing tax incentives for private enterprise to invest in public education. I would vote to protect Pell Grant funding for college students. Although the cost of higher education at public universities (CSU and UC) is a state matter, the federal government can help take the pressure off all students by guaranteeing more low-interest loans. I’d advocate forgiving those loans in exchange for some post-graduation public service. I would offer tax incentives to local business to hire local grads.
Another concern I share is the excessive compensation to some state education officials. Although I wouldn’t have any legislative power in Congress affecting this directly, I would use whatever influence I had to encourage lawmakers in Sacramento to rectify this apparent inequity.