Swing states and polls rule the media and minds of candidates up for election this November. But what do the people want? According to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, more than 50% of voters said they were not better off than they were four years ago.
The College Board, a non-profit, non-partisan group that runs the SAT and AP tests, completed its own survey and found that education is an issue at the forefront of this election in nine swing states. Education ranked below only jobs and the economy, which are “issues you hear about all the time,” said Peter Kauffmann, vice president of communications at the College Board.
“Voters want to hear candidates talk about education,” he said.
The College Board launched the “Don’t Forget Ed” campaign in June to put the economic benefits of education reform into political discussion and ask people to join the movement.
The organization doesn’t necessarily compare data to the four-year presidential term, though the current data shows that while higher education student enrollment has risen, so has overall school costs. According to the College Board’s Trends in Public Higher Education report released in June, all states saw an increase in total enrollment at public institutions from 2005 to 2010. However, 12 states increased their four-year, in-state tuition and fees by more than 47% between the 2006-07 and 2011-12 school years.
As part of its campaign, the College Board put up two installations to inspire conversation. Last week, stacks of fake $100 bills totaling $1.5 billion were piled up six feet high on Wall Street. The amount represented how much money would be put into the economy each year if the high school dropout rate was reduced by 1%, according to the College Board.
“As the presidential parties are gearing up for their national nominating conventions, we want to make sure that education is at the top of the agenda,” said College Board president Gaston Caperton in a press release. “Education is the foundation of much of our society — the economy, arts and sciences, public safety and so much more depend on raising educated citizens.
The first installation on the National Mall included 857 empty school desks, a representation of the students who drop out of school each hour of every school day. Kauffman said the visual nature of the installation was used to “drive home the point” of the campaign.
“Reducing the high school dropout rate is one of many steps that we can take to shore up this foundation, but it’s not the only step,” Caperton said. “‘Don’t Forget Ed’ is a movement that encourages candidates to think about education, talk about education and show Americans that they care about education. The silence on this key issue ends now.”
To end the silence on the issue, the College Board has taken to social media to spread the message for education reform. More than 6,000 messages with #DontForgetEd were sent out on Twitter during the organization’s social media rally last week.
“Social media is critical” to the non-profit’s movement, Kauffman said. “Let your voice be heard that way.”
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