Chavous: Time for Education is Now


Kevin Chavous doesn’t mince words when it comes to education. And if a few more people shared his passion for truly leaving no child behind, all of us (particularly our students) would be the beneficiaries.

During his Wednesday speech to the Economic Club of Indiana, the Indianapolis native and Wabash College graduate said (and backed up the opinions):

  •  “Nothing is more important to the future of this country than the education of our young people.”
  • “Public education is, by and large, failing our children.” He called it unconscionable that as many as 80% of African American males that enter the Indianapolis Public Schools system eventually are dropouts
  • “It’s intolerable to accept mediocrity (in our schools), and that is what we do.”
  • “Innovation and creativity need to be tailored toward kids’ best interest, not the systems’ best interest.”
  • “The system snuffs the lifeblood out of the best and brightest teachers.”
  • “No bureaucracy has reformed itself from within. It has to come from citizens and parents.”

Need proof of a system that is broken? Chavous offers New York’s “rubber room,” where incompetent teachers sit (and get paid, sometimes for years) while in the process of being fired; California teachers get automatic tenure for life with no reviews after two years on the job (while the union itself admits it takes five to seven years to know if a teacher is capable of doing a good job); and a Washington, D.C. union negotiating plank that all teachers must leave the building by 3:15 p.m. or police will be called (no more working or helping students than the minimum).

A lawyer in Washington, Chavous has been an education reformer within the city and around the country. He gives three reasons why Americans should be outraged at our country’s declining education performance:

  1. A moral imperative to not abandon the many students who are not given a chance to succeed beyond their early years
  2. A public safety analysis that revealed a 10% high school graduation increase would lead to a 20% reduction in the murder rate, fewer incarcerations and more productive citizens
  3. An economic report that showed closing the achievement gaps of students of color, poor students and students compared to their international peers would result in gross domestic product increases of billions and trillions of dollars

Chavous served on President Obama’s education policy team during the campaign, but vehemently opposed the administration’s decision to cut funding for the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. His guiding principles on education policy: “The question I ask myself is, ‘Will this proposal help a child or group of children learn? If the answer is yes, I support it.’" And his closing comment on what all need to focus on moving forward – "what’s in the best interest of children, not adults?"

Education makes an encore appearance at the February 23 Economic Club luncheon with Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College.

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