E: -3.42, S: -8.09
Overall, you have some good ideas, and I believe you're on the right path. I'll give you my thoughts point by point.
I'm not in favor of paying students to graduate. Or even to get good grades. I think student apathy is a cultural problem, in that their only motivation for 'success' is future 'success' (good grades = good college = good job = more stuff/better life etc.) We have to find a way to get kids to understand that knowledge and wisdom are their own rewards.
I have some experience with this. I was a mystery to my teachers because I aced every test, but never did much of my homework, leading to straight D's. Until my dad bet me fifty bucks I couldn't get all A's for one semester. I ended up with a 4.0 GPA. Next semester - straight D's. This may initially support the argument of paying for performance, but my point is, I didn't care about proving myself to teachers or competing with other students, so I floated my way through school. Now, I have a thirst for knowledge because I eventually recognized it as its own reward. If we could instill that in children without forcing on them the need for approval from people of authority or the need to 'seperate themselves from the pack', they'd actually learn because they want to, not because they feel the need to.
I couldn't agree more with your second point.
I agree with merit pay, but would need more details on what would be considered a 'good teacher'. Is it based only on test scores? This seems to already be in effect - No Child Left Behind.
I definitely think we need more trade schools, and I believe this is in effect in some places, like NYC. But would it be a choice of the student, the faculty, the parents, or all of the above? Not everybody knows what they want to do with their life when they're young. I literally only 'voluntarily' read one book, a collection of Poe short stories, until I was 19. I simply had no interest. Now, I'm a writer and read everything I can get my hands on.
And I have a problem with the idea "Almost all job classes offered would be Physical Labor." Why? Not sure if it was your intention, but this reeks of classism. To me anyway. Why not a Music Academy, an Art Academy, a Business Academy, even a Sports Academy, a Medical Academy, or a Civics Academy. This list goes on and on. I don't see any reason to limit it to Physical Labor.
Overall, your recommendation has the right spirit - it stresses the need for better education in the form of more interest and therefore more involvement from the students, as well as more commitment from teachers. But if it was put up for a vote, I'd ultimately vote no. I don't think it would lead to your goal, i.e. "because it will lead to the General Welfare of the people being raised." If by welfare, you mean comfortabilty and job security, maybe, but there's no proof those two things lead to anything else.
It seems to me that most individuals judge their own well-being on wether or not they are satisfied with the direction or outcome of their life. Simply giving the government more control over education isn't going to change that, I'd argue the opposite. If students are forced to decide the path of their lives before they're ready to do so, or even worse, that decision is made for them, you'll have a more 'qualified' workforce, but that doesn't mean it will be a better one.
Good luck on the assignment!