It’s time for liberal education activists and legislators to realize their government-focused, one-size-fits-all approach to education is not meeting the demands of the modern workplace.

Currently, there are approximately 6 million skilled labor positions available in the United States, and not enough people to fill these well-paying jobs. This giant, flashing-red neon light is telling us that our current education system is not adapting quickly enough to fit the needs of a changing economy. And, rather than limiting pathways to success, we should be expanding them.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), two-thirds of jobs require an associate’s degree, some education beyond high school, or less. We are doing people a disservice by telling them they cannot succeed without a traditional four-year education when this is just not the case.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce says there are about 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year and don’t require bachelor’s degrees. Health care and personal care will be among the jobs most in demand by 2022, and many of these jobs don’t require a four-year degree.

For-profit and nonprofit colleges and universities can offer a great alternative to traditional four-year schools to acquire the skills needed in today’s economy. They are often more flexible and responsive to the demands of their students and the workforce because they are not subjected to the same bureaucracy as government-run institutions.

These schools also tend to cater to more nontraditional students such as veterans, women and minorities who are looking to start a career, acquire new skills to change careers, or update their skills.

Rather than support these different choices for self-improvement and advancement, liberal senators such as Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), with the support of activist cheerleaders such as Robert Shireman and David Halperin, are attempting to weaponize the IRS against a select group of private schools that have changed their status from for-profit to nonprofit.

Earlier this year, the senators wrote a letter to the IRS asking it to “closely scrutinize” these schools, not unlike when the IRS was closely scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of hundreds of Tea Party, conservative and evangelical nonprofits during the Obama administration. These senators claim they are “concerned” these schools may take advantage of their new, tax-exempt status.

These concerns are rather rich coming from these folks. Warren taught at Harvard University — a nonprofit, tax-exempt school, and Shiremen received his masters from Harvard, which is home to the largest endowment fund in the world, at more than $37 billion.

Halperin went to Yale University, which comes in second at over $27 billion in endowments. Are Warren, Shireman, and Halperin looking for the government to closely scrutinize Harvard and Yale and the benefits they have gained through their tax-exempt status? No.

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This is a classic example of liberals’ trying to use government to pick winners and losers. For them, if you are a government-run university, or among a select few elite private schools, you’re in good standing. But if you offer something outside the “programmed agenda,” the IRS should come after you.

The same is true at the elementary, middle and high school levels when offering parents and students a choice in education. It’s met with fiery opposition. This is wrong.

A one-size-fits-all, government-prescribed, assembly-line approach to education isn’t working. It leaves us vulnerable to economic changes.

Our nation was built on free-market principles that allow for competition and choice. This should especially be true in education. Whether it’s about kindergarten or college, we should be able to pick a path that is best for us as individuals.

A one-size-fits-all, government-prescribed, assembly-line approach to education isn’t working. It leaves us vulnerable to economic changes, just as we are seeing in today’s economy with so many skilled jobs going unfilled.

If we are to meet our nation’s demand for skilled workers, we must look to for-profit and nonprofit schools and universities to train the future workforce and fill the gaps in our economy. It is by expanding choices and opportunities in education, not limiting them, that we will solve this problem and allow our economy to grow even stronger.

Matthew Kandrach is president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CASE), a free market-oriented consumer advocacy organization.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Richard Durbin, CC BY 2.0Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Bernie Sanders, Collage/Colorized, CC BY-SA 2.0Gage Skidmore; Elizabeth Warren, Collage/Colorized, CC BY-SA 2.0Edward Kimmel)

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