(This post was co-authored by Evelyn B. Stacey, Education Studies Policy Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California)
“A world-class education is a prerequisite for success,” said President Obama in his speech to the NAACP on Tuesday, July 14 in Cincinnati. “The dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across the country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math. Furthermore he stated that “if black and brown children cannot compete then America cannot compete.” The president is correct and challenged governors to “prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success.” The Sunshine State is a shining example. Ten years ago Florida ranked near the bottom on almost every national education measure. Today, the average Florida Hispanic student’s fourth-grade reading score on the Nation’s Report Card — a test conducted in English — is now higher than the overall scores of all fourth-graders in 15 states, including California. Low-income, Hispanic fourth-graders also outscore all fourth-graders in California and many of those states. African-American fourth-graders in the Sunshine State also score higher than average for all students in Louisiana and Mississippi, and a single point now separates them from all California fourth graders. Tax credits-promoted by the president to overcome housing barriers-also overcome education barriers and were a key to Florida’s turnaround. Tax-credit scholarships help students in failing schools escape to better schools, and nearly two-thirds of Florida’s scholarships are awarded to African American and Hispanic students. And, for every dollar spent, Florida gets $1.49 back-an astounding 49 percent return on investment. The best ROI, of course, are changed lives, and isn’t that what the Obama Administration claims to be about?