Considering persistently poor scores on the Program for International Student Assessment, which is given to 15-year-old students by the OECD, America’s mediocre ranking in science, math, and reading has US policymakers scrambling for a fix. A recent example is releasing states from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) standards, allowing them to pursue their own accountability and performance measures. (Half of public schools fail to meet NCLB standards, according to a December report by the Center on Education Policy.)
The US needs to go beyond the short-term fixes of voucher programs and charter schools, which may work well for some but neglects others and fails to fix a broken system. The Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission, is a step in the right direction. It uniquely focuses on how education is financed to address disparities in educational opportunity.
Meanwhile, a college education is still inaccessible and unaffordable for many. Student debt nearing $1 trillion is testament to this unsustainable trend. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s focus on community colleges and efforts by governors to nationalize core curriculum standards are encouraging.
Greater educational opportunity and graduation rates correlate with lower levels of violence (see the US Peace Index) thus requiring fewer state funds to respond to violence. But with presidential candidates queuing to further cut the federal role in education and with congressional deficit reduction agendas targeting education funding, vigilance is vital – America’s economic future depends on it.