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Paige: Education Must Be Be Reformed And Transformed to Meet Demand for Highly Qualified Workers

Ohanian Comment: Rod Paige says he has the answer. Too bad he doesn't ask the right questions. Our technological jobs are being shipped overseas, not because we don't have a surplus of people to do the work, but because corporate greed has found a way to make a buck off cheaper labor.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Saying "education is the answer," U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today called for America to produce more "knowledge workers" ready for a highly competitive 21st Century economy.

"Marginally educated or undereducated workers are not in high demand," he told the Kiwanis International Leadership Council Meeting. "Almost every job is highly dependent on intelligence, communication ability and computer skill."

Paige said the world is catching up. "Competition from India, China, the European Union and others is rapidly changing the way we do business," he said. "We simply cannot forfeit our economic security. We cannot let others control our destiny."

Paige said our education system must be "reformed and transformed" to meet the demand.

"The need for literacy in reading and mathematics is a prerequisite for almost every job," Paige said. "The quality of our education system is directly responsible for the level of our economic success."

Paige also noted a severe "earnings gap" between college and high school workers. "Those with the highest levels of education are also those who are earning the highest average salaries," he said. "Approximately half of the chronically unemployed are not functionally literate.... Employment growth is fastest among those with some level of education beyond high school."

"Simply put," Paige added, "education pays."

Paige credited the President's No Child Left Behind Act for bringing about needed changes in our education system. He attributed it with improved test scores in reading and math after a long period of little or no improvement.

"While fourth-grade reading scores between 1992 and 2000 remained stagnant, there has been a five-point increase in the last three years nationally," he said. "No Child Left Behind has ended that 'flat line'."

Paige also reported that the "achievement gap" is beginning to close: "The percentage of African American and Hispanic fourth-graders who know their reading and math basics increased substantially more between 2000 and 2003 than in the previous eight years combined."

"We must build on the foundation of this law," Paige said. He thanked the Kiwanis for supporting the President's "Preparing America's Future: High School Initiative." The Initiative seeks to ensure that every high school student graduates with the skills needed to succeed in college and the global workforce. It includes the joint "Take the Lead" program which shares information with and offers technical support to state and local education leaders.

"You could reach out to help reshape and transform American education," he urged. "You can 'Take the Lead'. If you do, believe me, others will follow."

— Press Release
U. S. Department of Education


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