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Improving Education Requires We Reform Our Political System First

Paul Johnson welcomes the president of Thomas R. Brown Foundations, Sarah Smallhouse, and Rodel Foundation Chairman & Founding Director, Don Budinger, to talk about how political reform is key to improving education.

The three go over why their foundations, that were set up to improve education, have made leadership a high priority. They establish a real connection between a country’s leadership role and the quality of its public education system. They believe the partisan system has harmed our ability to improve education, and they talk about the reform approach they believe should be followed to achieve a high-quality educational system.

  • Sarah Smallhouse talks about the Brown Foundations and why they have made leadership a high priority. The Brown Foundations have worked to help leaders on both sides better understand state issues through educational programs designed to help leaders understand the complexity. However, Sarah points out that Brown Foundations went into leadership because the real focus was education. However, with so many leaders applying simple partisan approaches to education, they felt it necessary to help educate leaders and the public on issues.

  • Don Budinger touches upon the origin story and the purpose of the Rodel Foundation, as well as how things have been on the educational front. Don Budinger had been a tech leader. He and others saw how our educational system in America was dramatically underperforming.

  • When building the Rodel company, Bundinger and his partners noticed an educational difference between the high school graduates they hired in Europe and Asia to run their factories and companies in the U.S.

  • Don points out there is a strong correlation between a country’s leadership role and the quality of its public education system.

  • As countries rise to becoming major superpowers, and those that provide for a high quality of life for its citizens, one of the determining factors is the quality of the educational system. And this is true for the United States too, says Don Budinger.

  • Budinger discusses one thing that, if properly addressed during the learning process, can help every kid and improve the whole system.

  • According to Budinger, what’s currently missing in Arizona is the leaders’ commitment to do what it takes for the whole system to improve.

  • Sarah Smallhouse points out one thing that philanthropy cannot do: replace the public sector funding of public education. Philanthropy and foundations, with all their wealth, are significantly under financed to replace the role the government plays in funding.

  • Don Budinger shares the findings of an experiment he ran years ago regarding education for children living in poor environments, and the approach that should be taken. This includes making sure that the children who can be high performers are given the tools to succeed just like those children who will need additional help. Unfortunately in poor environments both are in short supply.

  • Paul, Smallhouse, and Budinger talk about the problems with the existing system.

  • Paul points out that one party wants more money, but they reject reforms that demand more out of the system. The other party wants to increase demands, but they consistently underfund education. This is because the narrow interests that elect them in their primaries fundamentally are not concerned with improving outcomes, only serving the special interests within the party.

  • Don Bundinger highlights the fact that compromise, which used to be the nugget of progress for most of American history, is now perceived as a weakness. The existing system promotes a zero-sum game. Education requires the best from both sides.

  • Paul and his guests unpack what they consider reform ideas that could help improve both primary and general elections. This would include eliminating the discrimination against unaffiliated voters and candidates that today represent the largest political group. This would empower less partisanship and focus more on the ideas necessary to make improvements.

  • Paul pointed out how he had other guests from other states that have implemented reform including the Republican Majority Leader in Alaska. These representatives have said on prior shows that the reforms stopped leaders from focusing on divisive issues like who can use what bathroom and instead focus on big issues like education, quality of life and jobs.

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