As a former high school teacher and a professor at Miami-Dade College, I know the importance of education. And I’ve also seen how our present education system is failing a lot of our children.

The answer that the Republicans offer is cut funding, transfer needed tax dollars into charter schools, many of which are for-profit entities, and to bad-mouth teachers.

Our public school system was created as a way for every child, even from the humblest background, to put a foot on the first rung of the ladder of success.

We need to expand Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to include more schools and more students. A decent education should be recognized as a right for every child. And we need to do a serious overhaul of No Child Left Behind and to expand school lunch programs because a hungry child is a child who can’t focus on learning.

The Administration’s plan to diverting needed federal dollars from local schools into private charter schools, and forcing state governments and local school boards to follow suit, is recipe for disaster. It promises only to enrich those who run these private schools. Although there are some good charter schools, when things get tough, all too often we have seen them close in the middle of the night and with the children left on the doorstep of public schools.

I support the idea of making community college tuition-free so that every student can get a basic education. But I’d go one step further. Because our economy is rapidly changing, I’d also propose using our community colleges as a base from which people can be retrained for the new jobs. And I’d make that retraining free, too. Students shouldn’t have to reapply for financial aid every year. And we need to cut back or even eliminate interest on student loans. If we can afford to lend money to banks interest-free, we can afford to lend it to students interest-free, too.

Teaching is the noblest profession. A good teacher shouldn’t be restricted to following a script. She or he should use every tool to set young minds on fire, stoking a lifelong thirst for knowledge.