Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2015

An education agenda for the states: Fostering opportunity from pre-K through college

Katharine B. Stevens, Michael Q. McShane, Andrew P. Kelly, Frederick M. Hes

April 2015

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research


In US education, with all its rich human dynamics, what matters is not whether a reform is attempted, but rather how it is executed. The states, given their sufficient control over schools and colleges and their proximity to their communities, are in a far better position than the federal government to effectively execute policies. Although many education reform efforts have fallen flat over the years, there are promising initiatives on the horizon that state leaders would be well-advised to pursue. Governors and legislators are right to look for strategies that can provide the highest-quality education to the largest number of students. In pre-K, state leaders have a rare opportunity to build a system from the ground up; in K-12, they have the chance to remove barriers to give more freedom to teachers and parents; and in higher education, they have the opportunity to look beyond the existing system to create new, more affordable postsecondary options that allow more flexibility for students and innovation for course providers.