On Wednesday, August 28th, Democratic candidate Joe Sestak came to give one of his “Cup of Joe” presentations on his educational policy.
A member of the United States Navy for thirty-one years, Sestak shared that he considered the importance of continuing education and re-education as some of the most meaningful lessons he learned while serving. Personally, he had the opportunity to attend Harvard University to pursue a Ph.D. in economics and national security. While working with various skilled professionals in the navy, such as welders and mechanics, Sestak saw firsthand the value of investing in a highly skilled workforce and in re-educating workers to keep their skills relevant as the nature of their work changed. As he put it, “Education is our best homeland defense. . .. Militaries can stop a problem, but militaries can’t fix them.” With these experiences in mind, Sestak shared several of his educational policy goals with the members of the Muscatine community who came out to hear him speak.
To help all students get the education they will need to pursue postsecondary options, Sestak advocated starting young with public four-year-old preschool available to all students. In order to cover the cost of increasing the number of sections of preschool while still keeping it available to all people, Sestak would encourage lawmakers to pass a fee structure where people below the poverty line did not have to pay enrollment fees, and those above it would pay a nominal cost.
For all students, Sestak supported requiring schools to use the Common Core. For schools not currently incorporating Common Core standards, Sestark would give them a three-year period for learning what the standards require and determining how to best integrate them with their curricula. To make sure students meet the benchmarks set out by the Common Core, Sestak believes adaptive assessments (which provide easier or harder questions based on how well a student does) provide the best way to collect data.
Once students have completed high school, Sestark calls for, “Training for a Lifetime,” or readily accessible vocational education for those interested in pursuing it. He broadly outlined plans for students just out of high school to have access to mentorship or internship programs that lead to well-paid technical jobs. For older workers in fields losing jobs (such as coal mining) or jobs changing because of new technologies, Sestak looks to create community college style training programs to give these workers the new skills they need to change jobs or adapt to changes at work, and to continue to work productively for years to come.
Finally, for those pursuing a college education or advanced degree, Sestak stated that he would expand current policies that make repaying student loans more affordable. Modeling his ideas off the existing REPAYE program, Sestak calls for people with student loans to not have to pay more than five percent of their income each year, and that those without a job will not need to pay their loans until they find employment.