Ross Perot on Education

1992 & 1996 Reform Party Nominee for President


Teachers are poorly paid; more special compensation

In 1984, the Texas education establishment was ruled by what was called the "iron triangle." It consisted of the House and Senate legislative committees, education bureaucracies (the Texas Education Agency), and union representative teachers and coaches.

The governor asked Perot to serve as chairman of the Select Committee on Public Education (SCOPE). The governor had no idea that the so-called camel's nose he let under the tent would raise such a storm.

Using his own money, Perot brought in experts on education. "World-class people," he says. "I wanted to know where we were headed." Perot's specialists found that teachers were poorly paid and needed a lot more special compensation.

Source: The Man Behind the Myth, by Ken Gross, p.195-196 , Sep 20, 2000

No high school football unless passing grades

Perot attacked the football establishment. He denounced the presence of football coaches at the top level of academic management. "It was the football comments that got the most ink," Perot told Texas Business, "but we were also taking a hard look at such cost-ineffective programs as vocational and agricultural education."

"Extracurricular activities are about the only place in the public school system where we demand excellence from our children. I thought I was living pretty well until I found out that high school football players have towel warmers."

The howl of pain for the alumni, the fans, the coaches, and the ex-coaches rang from one end of the state to the other. Perot, meanwhile, in his piccolo-piper voice, lobbied for a bill that would prevent students from participating in after-school sports unless they had passing grades. He rallied the business community and politicians for a school reform package. And he won.

Source: The Man Behind the Myth, by Ken Gross, p.195-197 , Sep 20, 2000

Expand school year from 180 days to at least 210

Our children attend elementary and high school for 180 days a year, while their counterparts in Japan and Germany attend school for 243 days and 240 days, respectively. Can our children learn as much in 180 days as their children learn in 240 days? To ask the question is to answer it. If we were to increase our school year from 180 days to 210 days-still behind many nations-that would be the equivalent of two more years of school by the time a student finishes the 12th grade.
Source: The Dollar Crisis, p.131 , Jul 2, 1996

Investing in education results in high living standards

Much that is happening in our schools is good, but too many young people graduate from high school without having been challenged, and often without having acquired the basic literacy and math skills everyone needs. The overwhelming reason for our high standard of living-and that of other industrialized nations-is our investment in people.

The US is ahead of all other nations in higher education, though the gap is narrowing. But in elementary and high school education, we are lagging. No matter who is elected, one trend is not going to change: The demand for unskilled labor is declining. Yet too many young people leave school untrained, although few of them are untrainable.

We need to be more creative, and we need to draw greater numbers of parents into the education process. And when we encounter parents who lack basic literacy or are severely limited, we should seize the opportunity to train them so the problem is not compounded.

Source: The Dollar Crisis, p.130 , Jul 2, 1996

End adult illiteracy

We must encourage adults to add to their capabilities and to further their education. In particular, we should promote a major drive to end adult illiteracy. The extent of the problem is stunning. Approximately 23 million adult Americans cannot read a newspaper or complete a job application properly. This is a huge drain on the resources of our nation.

Compounding the adult illiteracy crisis is the knowledge that children in a home where the parents cannot read and write are likely to perform poorly in school, and many will become high school dropouts. And adults who have extremely limited skills are more likely to be unemployed. A hopeful sign is the discovery that a few third-world nations have been able to improve their adult illiteracy rates dramatically within just a few years. There is nothing to prevent the US from doing the same. We can wait no longer.

Source: The Dollar Crisis, p.132 , Jul 2, 1996

Test students more; ďno pass, no playĒ

In 1983, Perot proposed developing achievement tests for students. It was Perot who coined the phrase that came to represent the thrust of his reforms-ďNo pass, no playĒ: meaning students had to maintain passing grades in order to participate in extracurricular activities.

One state senator concluded, ďĎNo pass, no playí didnít work like intended, since students took easy courses to ensure they didnít fail, instead of challenging themselves with more productive classes.Ē

Source: Citizen Perot, by Gerald Posner, p.157-59 , Jul 2, 1996

Smaller classes; longer days; merit pay

In late 1983, the Texas governor asked Perot to chair his Select Committee on Public Education (SCOPE), a panel to suggest reforms. Perot said he was doing it for the people of Texas: "If I really thought the public did not want a better school system, I would do something else. I could be on a yacht somewhere."

On this new crusade Perot did not spend his time speaking with teachers and students. Instead, he hired consultants, decided what he thought was best for Texas education, and then went to the business community and citizens' groups to sell his plan. The proposals included keeping classes from kindergarten through the 4th grade to no larger than 15 children and reducing the average class size in other grades from 31 to 22 students; starting prekindergarten services for children from disadvantaged families; having schools stay open from 7 AM to 6 PM for on-site day care; initiating merit pay for good teachers; and developing achievement tests for students.

Source: Citizen Perot, by Gerald Posner, p.156-7 , Jul 2, 1993

Literacy & competency testing for teachers

Perot went after teachers, saying the only people who get "paid extra for staying alive" are seniority-based teachers. "The dumbest folks in college are studying to be teachers." As far as he was concerned, 4 out of 5 newly graduated teachers were "incompetent," and he proposed literacy and competency tests. That prompted the largest teachers' union to walk out of talks with him.

Teachers and school administrators criticized Perot's bill as expensive & ineffective. In 1984, Perot got his House Resolution 72, a sweeping package that he claimed would revolutionize the state's education system. Despite Perot's hyperbole, the results were not dramatic--8 years later, when he ran for president, Texas had only moved up one notch, to 43rd among the states. Perot blames the way the laws were implemented. He says, "My job was to put in the law. That doesn't mean anything. Implementing them is what counts. They didn't execute it the way they should have. I had no involvement after the law was passed."

Source: Citizen Perot, by Gerald Posner, p.157-9 , Jul 2, 1993

More money into same system produces more of same failures

Donít tell me that money is at the root of the problem because it isnít. We spend billions a year on education. More money poured into the same system will only produce the same results.
Source: United We Stand, by Ross Perot, p. 76-77 , Jul 2, 1992

More pre-school, more standards, more teacher respect

    Today there are programs that have proven successful in regions all over the country. Washingtonís role should be to establish the means of measuring results and to encourage the spread of successful programs throughout the country. Here are the specifics I recommend:
  1. Establish comprehensive preschool programs. $1 spent on preschool will save at least $5 down the line.
  2. Spend federal dollars to spread programs that work.
  3. Empower parents. Our system is upside down. The producers have all the power. The customers-the parents-have very little power.
  4. Restore local autonomy with accountability. Our local schools are hamstrung with bureaucratic orders from on high.
  5. Establish national standards and measure results.
  6. Make learning the first priority.
  7. Treat teachers as respected professionals.
  8. Make better use of school buildings. School districts should be encouraged to stretch their school year, and we should draw adults into the learning center of the community.
Source: United We Stand, by Ross Perot, p. 77-81 , Jul 2, 1992

Create worldís finest public schools

Source: Save Your Job, Save Our Country, by Ross Perot, p. 0 , Jan 1, 1993

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Page last updated: Oct 28, 2021