In 2008 Presidential Candidate Barack Obama stated that parents have to step up. Parents have to turn off the television and make sure the home work is done. He challenged African American parents to value education for their children. He has done little to if anything to create policy that would move parents in this direction.
Below is a plan to do just what President Obama called for, create involved parents.
Individual College Account Plans (ICAs) will treat all families the same regardless of zip codes. It rewards those who achieve by helping pay for college. It treats all families equally, but those who most need funding for college benefit the most. ICAs return taxpayer money to taxpayers and benefit all of society.
Here is how ICAs work. When a child is born, $5000 is placed one time into an Individual College Account (ICA) in the child’s name. The ICA matures as a 401K or 403 B would. When the child enters first grade, assuming the child is reading ready, the parents receive $2000. If the child is not reading ready, the $2000 goes right to the district the child is enrolled in to help pay for the extra costs associated with enabling this child to be at grade level reading by grade 3.
The remaining money in the account continues to mature until the child enters college or technical training school. At that time, a percentage of the matured funds based on grades, behavior, and parental involvement, are sent to the college or trade school the child will be attending.
ICAs reward taxpayers. According to national statistics, a high school graduate earns $392,000 more than a non-high school graduate. Children who read at grade level are more likely than those who do not read at grade level to finish high school. Assuming a 40 year working career at a conservative 20% income tax rate, the high school graduate will pay more than $75,000 in taxes to the federal government than a non-high school graduate. The payback to society from this investment in our public well-being is huge.
The difference in earnings between a college graduate and a non-college graduate nationwide is approximately $1.1 million. Assuming the same conservative tax rate a college grad pays more than $135,000 in taxes over the course of a career than a non-college grad.
Clearly ICAs pay for themselves!
And with a high school drop rate in many cities approaching 50% and greater, the returns from the ICA program between a college graduate and a high school graduate are even greater. This is just looking at the numbers without counting the reduction in crime and the increase in family stability which strongly correlate to high quality early education.
This program is win win for all involved. At the beginning levels of education incentives are offered to improve the raw materials. Parents are rewarded for doing their job as parents, and college becomes more affordable as the matured amount of money available is likely to be between 10 and $15,000.
Schools will be serving their clients: families and students, the people for whom school exists. Families and children will be rewarded according to their own success. Employers will have a greater selection of qualified employees. Neighborhoods will benefit from reduced crime. The family unit will be cherished, encouraged, and promoted.
Recently, Kalamazoo Mi. introduced a program similar to ICAs. An anonymous donor made a contribution promising all students who qualify a free college education. What happened after just two years is so promising the Governor of Michigan is trying to spread the program statewide.
In two years enrollment in Kalamazoo Public Schools increased by 900 students. Property values rose by 7% and 10% increasing city revenues.
No doubt these were already interested, concerned, effective parents taking advantage of an opportunity. A similar program years back in an inner city school in Philadelphia known as the Belmont 112 did not produce similar results. The challenge in education is to create interested, effective parents. It takes more than money: It takes educating parents as to how to educate their
ICAs require no experimental or expensive charter schools. ICAs eliminate the controversy involved with unproven, indeterminable concepts such as merit pay for teachers.
While standardized tests can be part of determining the percentage of the ICA sent to the college or trade school of the child’s choice, grades, behavior, and effort can be taken into account to obtain a more accurate and complete picture of the child. The ICA is all carrot and no stick. It eliminates the fraud so prevalent in Charter Schools, Voucher Programs, Merit Pay for Teachers, and with Educational Management Organizations.
We can create parental involvement with policies that demonstrate government can be effective in solving complex problems. Individual College Accounts nurture families, something politicians of both parties can stand behind. Let’s hope it gets done.