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Sen. Paul views on School Choice, Sequester

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By Jennifer Decker, field representative to Rand Paul

 As Sen. Rand Paul's field representative for your county, I submit the following:

1. An Op-Ed promoting School Choice

America’s educational system is leaving behind anyone who starts with disadvantages, and that is wrong. Those born in poverty already face significant challenges. For those striving to climb the ladder of success, we must fix our schools.

The question then bears asking: What is the best way? Let’s start with what we’ve tried.

We have cut classroom size in half and tripled spending on education, and still we lag behind much of the world. We have moved control from the local level to the federal level. We have passed No Child Left Behind, which has not worked, and which most teachers I speak to would like repealed.

What we have not done is return to local control, nor have we embraced the power of competition.

Let’s start by agreeing that a great education needs to be available for everyone, whether you live on a country club lane or in government housing.

I am convinced this will only happen when we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, from any background.

Let the taxes you pay for education follow each and every student to the school of your choice.

Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.

The status quo traps poor children in a crumbling system of hopelessness.

In Kentucky, only two of Louisville’s 18 persistently low-achieving schools meet required measures for progress. Five Jefferson County schools have shown “zero” progress over the past three years. This is a terrible, shameful, immediate crisis. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday calls this situation “academic genocide.” I agree.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University call high schools with such dismal graduation rates “dropout factories.” We have too many of them. We should have none.

Clearly, current policies are failing families and students. No one should be forced to endure this crisis. We must act now to fix our schools. If we don’t, many students from disadvantaged neighborhoods will continue to be left behind. The status quo traps many in a crumbling system of hopelessness. That’s a sobering fact that we need to meet head on.

In America, poverty should not destine a child to educational failure. Instead, we all should have access to a great education, whether we live on a country club lane or in government housing.

I believe equality in education will only be achieved when we allow school choice for all: rich or poor, white, brown or black. Let the taxes Americans pay for education follow every student to the school of his or her family’s choice.

School choice should be an obvious solution, and it need not be a partisan one.

Let’s give families and students control over their future. Let’s give them the option to pursue a better learning environment, instead of trapping them in a setting where they are destined to fail.

Let’s incentivize our schools to compete for students, compete for education dollars and boost innovation.

Public charter schools should be an option in providing school choice. Charter schools are independent schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative than traditional public schools, while being held accountable for improved student achievement.

For those striving to climb the ladder of success, we must fix our schools.

This is about a fair shot in life. And it is painfully obvious that too many students aren’t getting one. Instead, unfair policies are dooming them to failure.

When every child can, like the president’s kids, go to the school of their choice, then will the dreams of our children come true.

2. A report outlining Sen. Paul's Sequester Alternative Plan:  The Sequester without Layoffs

Sen. Rand Paul today unveiled the following plan to offset the anticipated layoffs of employees following the automatic spending cuts set to take place next month as a result of the sequester agreement. Below is a detailed look at cost-saving initiatives that, if implemented, would offset the impending sequester cuts, with a total savings of $85.75 billion annually.

The Sequester Without Layoffs

•         Stop Hiring New Federal Employees: $6.5 billion saved annually

o   Every year, thousands of federal employees retire or leave their jobs. In 2011, roughly 62,000 people ended their careers with the government. Estimates vary, but allowing a federal bureaucrat to retire without replacing that person with another employee can save anywhere from $60 billion to $200 billion over 10 years. This provision estimates to save $6.5 billion in one year.

•         Bring Federal Employee Pay in Line With Private Jobs: $32 billion saved annually

o   According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average compensation of a federal employees is 16 percent more than their private equivalents. By reducing salaries to align more with their private counterparts, this provision could save as much as $32 billion a year.

•         Reduce Federal Employee Travel by 25 Percent: $2.25 billion saved annually

o   The latest data provided by the General Services Administration suggested that the federal government spent $9 billion on travel. Reducing the federal travel budget by at least 25 percent can reduce the budget by $2.25 billion a year.

•         Focus Military Research on Military Needs: $6 billion saved annually

o   According to research done by the staff of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), found that the Defense Department spent $6 billion on research that had nothing to do with military or military-related health inquires.

•         Require Competitive Bidding for Government Contracts: $19 billion saved annually

o   The Davis-Bacon prevailing wages law requires federal projects to pay the employees higher wages. This would repeal this requirement and allow the government to save money by making pay competitive to all government employees. The Heritage Foundation estimates that this will save $9 billion a year. Also, many contracts in the federal government are provided to companies without requiring a competitive bid - or the opportunity for the government to contract work at the lowest price possible. This provision would require the government to competitively bid all contracts. This provision would save an additional $10 billion a year.

•         Cut 50 Percent of Foreign Aid: $20 billion saved annually

o   We spend more than $40 billion a year on foreign aid. When we're dealing with a budget crisis here at home, it's only responsible to bring this money home. This provision would eliminate half the foreign aid budget.

3. Press release: While House adopts directive from Sen. Paul's Alternative Sequester plan

Feb 28, 2013, WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, following a plan introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, the White House announced their intention to meet sequestration spending targets by directing all federal agencies to freeze new hires and curtail travel. Last week, Sen. Paul unveiled his sequester alternative plan, "A Sequester Without Layoffs," which would offset the sequester's anticipated spending cuts by reducing the travel budget and preventing new hire in federal agencies. Sen. Rand Paul issued the following statement:

"Our nation has a serious spending problem that must be re-evaluated. Last week I unveiled a plan that would reduce the anticipated layoffs by cutting spending, such as government travel budgets and the rehiring of federal employees. I am encouraged to hear that the White House is adopting these two measures in their assessment of the sequester cuts, but these cuts barely begin to scratch the surface of the problem," Sen. Paul said. "If we are serious about addressing our debt crisis, sequestration is only the beginning. We need much larger cuts and we need them sooner rather than later."