Laying the foundation for long-term economic growth

Rep. Phil Roe Contributor
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It’s that time of year again — it’s back to school time for families across Tennessee and the nation.

A high-quality education is critical to our children’s future and our nation’s economic competitiveness in an increasingly global marketplace. More and more, job growth and job creation are tied to knowledge, which is tied to education.

Education is an investment in a child’s future. And today, having a quality education and earning a diploma is more important than ever. Research from the Census Bureau shows that high school graduates earn on average $200,000 more in their careers than high school dropouts do.  Someone with a two-year associates degree will earn on average $600,000 more than a high school dropout will, and someone with a bachelor’s degree will earn $1.1 million more than someone who doesn’t complete high school.

Quality education directly impacts economic growth. I believe there is a direct correlation between the strength of our economy and the quality of the education that we provide to our young people. The better the quality of the education we can provide our children, the more opportunities they will have in life, the higher chance they will have of landing good jobs, keeping their jobs and advancing their careers. Researchers have found links between higher levels of cognitive skill—defined as “the performance of students on tests in math and science”—and economic growth. Specifically, Eric Hanushek, Dean Jamison, Eliot Jamison, and Ludger Woessmann write in the Spring 2008 issue of Education Next that countries with higher test scores experience far higher growth rates than countries with low test scores. In their research, they have found that a highly-skilled workforce can raise economic growth by about two-thirds of a percentage point every year.

Innovation is spurred by science and technology education. As a doctor, I feel that we need to create more incentives to attract more students into these fields.  Promoting math and science is a direct investment in our future generations and our ability to maintain our position as the world’s leading economy. As we try to spur job creation, we must have policies that position our country to compete in the global economy, and it’s clear we’ve been falling behind in these areas. To maintain the United States’ status as the world’s innovation leader, we must encourage innovation now.

If we create a better education system and more opportunities for our children, I believe we will solve our problems simply because people will be better able to make the right choices for themselves.  I believe that the key to improving our economy in the long run is making sure our children are receiving the quality education they need and deserve.

Rep. Phil Roe (R) represents the First Congressional District of Tennessee.