The national education system is mired in a deep crisis, as funding, teachers, student loans, social, and a myriad of other issues threaten to bring the already declining standards of American education even lower.
A 2009 report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which measured the performance of 470,000 15-year-old students from 34 OECD countries and another 31 partner countries, in the areas of reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy, made for some extremely troubling reading. The assessment, conducted every three years, reveals that the United States ranks 17th in reading literacy, 31st in mathematics literacy and 23rd in science literacy - while China comfortably tops each category.
A June 2007 analysis by the EPE Research Center (a division of Editorial Projects in Education), "Diplomas Count: Ready for What? Preparing for College, Careers, and Life After High School" concludes that "an estimated 1.23 million students, or about 30 percent of the class of 2007" failed to graduate. In a similar study conducted last year (Diplomas Count 2011: Beyond High School, Before Baccalaureate - Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree), EPE revealed that "nearly 3 out of every 10 students in America's public schools still fail to earn a diploma. That amounts to 1.2 million students falling through the cracks of the high school pipeline every year, or 6,400 students lost every day."
These numbers are staggering, and not simply because of the social implications - it's the economic one that we should be wary of. A high school dropout, according to Professor Cecilia Elene Rose in her 2005 paper, "The Labor Market Consequences of an Inadequate Education," will earn $260,000 less compared to their counterparts with high school diplomas. Additionally, the country will lose approximately "$192 billion 1.6% of GDP -- in combined income and tax revenue losses with each cohort of 18 year olds who never complete high school."
But the story doesn't end there. Americans used to have the second highest rate of college graduates in the world, a figure markedly reflected in the 55-64 age group, which consists of 41% college graduates - coinciding with the nation's post-WWII economic growth. Fast forward three decades later, and we are now languishing in the 16th spot.
There is much to consider here, and it's time to hear what the candidates have to say on the matter.
2012 Libertarian Presidential Nominee
Former Governor of New Mexico
Johnson opines that a federally managed education system is wasteful and inefficient. He advocates the abolishment of the Department of Education and in its place, allow the 50 states to experiment with their own education system.
Hi, I'm Stella Lohmann from Atlanta, Georgia. I've taught in both public and private schools, and now as a substitute teacher I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom? Thank you.
Bret Baier: That topic is for all candidates. And to get everyone to weigh in, 30 seconds each, please. Governor Johnson?
Gary Johnson: I'm promising to submit a balanced budget to Congress in the year 2013. That's a 43 percent reduction in federal spending. I am going to promise to advocate the abolishment of the federal Department of Education.
The federal Department of Education gives each state 11 cents out of every dollar that every state spends, but it comes with 16 cents worth of strings attached. So what America does not understand is that it's a negative to take federal money. Give it to 50 laboratories of innovation, the states, to improve on, and that's what we'll see: dramatic improvement.
September 22, 2011: Fox News-Google Republican Presidential Debate in Orlando, Florida American education is at a crossroads.
We can either choose to continue down the path of higher costs, poorer results, and top-down thinking, or challenge the status quo by using what actually works rather than what we wish would work. The problem is public education in America is now doing less with more. This is unsustainable for our pocketbooks and, most importantly, unfair to our children.
Now, imagine an educational system that not only educates students better, but also does it for less money every year. It would give each American child the opportunity to choose an individualized education to realize his or her dreams.
#1 Give Education Back to Parents and Teachers
• All parents should have an opportunity to choose which school their children attend.
• Putting educational funds in the hands of the people who use them gives parents and students a vote as to which schools are best and which need to improve.
• Our children deserve the chance to succeed educationally, but the same old way of thinking won't cut it. It's time to free individuals and states from burdensome federal mandates and regulations so they can pursue the right educational strategies for their students.
#2 End the Department of Education
Although it may sound drastic, there are practical reasons why it should be considered.
• The Department of Education grants each state 11 cents out of every dollar it spends on education. Unfortunately, every dollar of this money comes with 16 cents of strings attached. States that accept federal funding lose five cents for every dollar spent on education to pay for federal mandates and regulations, taking millions of dollars out of the classroom.
• Schools should have the authority to decide how best to spend educational dollars. Without federal regulations and mandates, schools could choose to purchase new computers, better lab equipment, and maintain after-school sports and music programs even during times of tight budgets.
• Once citizens and their local representatives have the freedom to decide how their educational funds will be spent, they can consider innovations that will drive student choice, educational competition, and better results.
Campaign Website: garyjohnson.com, Civil Liberties
“Gary Johnson: I was an absolute advocate of home schooling. It just makes all the sense in the world. And I was very much, I was more outspoken regarding school choice than any governor in the country, believing that we needed to bring competition to the public education which is in essence what you’re doing.
Question: Do you support, ending the Department of Education?
Gary Johnson: Yes, and I do that from the standpoint that the federal government gives each states about eleven cents out of every school dollar that every state spends, but it comes with about 16 cents worth of strings attached. And those are the strings that you’re talking about. They’re really making it a negative to take federal money. Just get the states out of education, and yours is a great example I think, of, you’ve taken education on yourself and I dare say your results are going to be, if measured, would be outstanding.
Should everyone emulate what it is you’re doing? On that basis, I don’t think so. But this is the choice that you’ve made and if we were to open up the entire school system to genuine competition on how to deliver education, we would see some startling innovation. Giving it back to the states
Question: How do you feel that, by taking the government out of education that’ll help the family core?
Gary Johnson: Well, yours is the best example, yours is the best example that I think I’ve ever seen. You’ve obviously bonded together as a family unlike perhaps any family I’ve seen.
You’re living on a bus. But because of that, you get to travel all over the country, you get to do things constantly, and I think it’s really cool, just think it’s really cool. I think, I wish I had the same opportunity.
April 23, 2011: Gary Johnson speaking with the Halldorson family on the unschoolbus
“Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs…
.. Think about it. Over the next ten years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school degree. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to 9th in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us -- as citizens, and as parents -- are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed…
… In South Korea, teachers are known as "nation builders." Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. In fact, to every young person listening tonight who's contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child -- become a teacher. Your country needs you. Of course, the education race doesn't end with a high school diploma. To compete, higher education must be within reach of every American…”
January 24, 2012: President Obama’s State of The Union Address
“Getting the best possible education has never been more important than it is right now. And that’s because in today’s world, a good job requires a good education. I travel all across the country, I go into factories, I go into companies. And it doesn’t matter where you are working, if you do not have a good education you are not going to be able to succeed. And that includes being on the factory floor these days, because most of the equipment is highly technical.
Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require a level of education beyond a high school degree. Which means, obviously, first of all, you can’t drop out of TechBoston. That’s not allowed. All ight? You can’t even think about dropping out. But, can’t even think about it. But even after you graduate, you’re going to need some additional education. And I know that TechBoston is doing an outstanding job of making sure that every student is prepared to go to college.
Unfortunately, the reality is too many students are not prepared across our country. Too many leave school without the skills they need to get a job that pays. Today, as many as a quarter of American students are not finishing high school, a quarter. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. And America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. We used to be number one, and we’re now number nine. That’s not acceptable.”
March 08, 2011: President Obama speaking at TechBoston Academy in Massachusetts.
“At this defining moment in our history, America faces few more urgent challenges than preparing our children to compete in the global economy. The decisions our leaders make about education in the coming years will shape our future for generations to come. It will help determine not only whether our children have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential or whether our workers have a chance to build a better life for their families, but whether we as a nation will remain in the 21st century the kind of global economic leader that we were in the 20th century. The rising importance of education reflects the new demands of our new world.”
September 9, 2008: Obama offers comprehensive educational plan during a campaign speech in Dayton, Ohio
Romney believes that education is a central aspect of the American Dream. However, he believes that years of neglect by the federal government has rendered the national education system ineffective, broken even. He also believes that the continuing “flood of federal dollars” is driving up the cost of higher education.
He advocates wide-ranging reforms to the education system, and will take the unprecedented step of tying teachers’ compensations to their results instead of tenure. In addition, Romney will implement measures that will expand parental role in education.
“ … I came into a state where Republicans and Democrats had worked to, before I got there to make some very important changes. They said that they were going to test our kids every year. They said to graduate from high school, you're going to have to pass an exam in English and math. I was the first governor that had to enforce that provision. There were a lot of people that said, oh, no, no, no. Let people graduate even if they can't pass that exam. I enforced it. We fought it. It was hard to do. We added more school choice. My legislature tried to say no more charter schools. I vetoed that, we overturned that.
With school choice, testing our kids, giving our best teachers opportunities for advancement, these kinds of principles drove our schools to be pretty successful. As a matter of fact, there are four measures on which the federal government looks at schools state by state, and my state's number one of all 50 stays in all four of those measures, fourth-and-eighth-graders in English and math. Those principles, testing our kids, excellent curriculum, superb teachers, and school choice, those are the answers to help our schools.“
February 22, 2012: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
“… education has to be held at the local and state level, not at the federal level. We need get the federal government out of education. And secondly, all the talk about we need smaller classroom size, look that's promoted by the teachers unions to hire more teachers. We looked at what drives good education in our state, what we found is the best thing for education is great teachers, hire the very best and brightest to be teachers, pay them properly, make sure that you have school choice, test your kids to see if they are meeting the standards that need to be met, and make sure that you put the parents in charge. And as president I will stand up to the National Teachers Unions…
… I think the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is doing a good thing by saying, you know what, we should insist that teachers get evaluated and that schools have the opportunity to see which teachers exceeding and which ones are failing and that teachers that are not successful are removed from the classroom. ..”
September 22, 2011: Fox News/ Google Debate, Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida
“… I have issues that take me in the same direction. One is No Child Left Behind. I've taken a position where, once upon a time, I said I wanted to eliminate the Department of Education. That was my position when I ran for Senate in 1994. That's very popular with the base. As I've been a governor and seen the impact that the federal government can have holding down the interest of the teachers' unions and instead putting the interests of the kids and the parents and the teachers first, I see that the Department of Education can actually make a difference. So I supported No Child Left Behind. I still do. I know there are a lot in my party that don't like it, but I like testing in our schools. I think it allows us to get better schools, better teachers; allows us to let our kids have the kind of hope that they ought to have.”
May 15, 2007: Republican presidential primary debate, University of South Carolina, Columbia
“… America's post-WWWII commitment to public higher education directly contributed to the burst of productivity that rocketed our economy beyond every other. But other nations have made as great or greater a commitment to higher education than we have, particularly in engineering, computer science, and information. 15 years ago, China and India awarded about half as many master's degrees in these fields as did the US. Today, they graduate more than two times the number of students in these fields as we do. While our annual number of degrees has hovered around 7,000 to 8,000, China's has risen from 1,784 to 12,130--50% greater than ours. This is a stunning reversal of global preeminence in the priority attached to the highest level of educational attainment. Not surprisingly, China, Japan, and Taiwan claim a growing share of the world's patents…”
March 2, 2010: No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, a book by Romney
“You have a right to your life and you have a right to your property, but you don’t have, education isn’t a right, healthcare isn’t, education…these are things you have to earn.”
March 2, 2011: Speaking on MSNBC
The Constitution is very, very clear. There is no authority for the federal government to be involved in education… There's no, no prohibition in the Constitution for the states to be involved in education. That's not a bad position and we can sort things out. But once, once again the Senators for, was for No Child Left Behind, but now he's running for president, now he's running to repeal No Child Left Behind once again. But, and he calls it a team sport. He has to go along to get along and that's the way the team plays. But that's what the problem is with Washington. That's what's been going on for so long…
February 22, 2012: CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate
Cuts $1 trillion in spending during the first year of Ron Paul’s presidency, eliminating five cabinet departments (Energy, HUD, Commerce, Interior, and Education), abolishing the Transportation Security Administration and returning responsibility for security to private property owners, abolishing corporate subsidies, stopping foreign aid, ending foreign wars, and returning most other spending to 2006 levels.
Ronpaul2012.com, RON PAUL “PLAN TO RESTORE AMERICA”
Our country continues to flounder in the world rankings for education. For the nation to remain as a leader in business, finance, and technology, our children need the proper tools and instruction. To do so, there must be a new system put into place to provide our children with the best educators and resources.
As a teacher, Snyder has first-hand knowledge of our nation’s educational shortcomings. America has the most technologically advanced education in the world, and tools for the most outdated curriculum in western society. It is embarrassing that we are still teaching our children to think along career paths suited for the 1950’s during the 21st century. Our country is the largest financial system in the world, based on capitalism within a free market society, yet we do not teach our children even the basics of finance, let alone the fundamentals of how to prosper within our own country.
To win the war on poverty, we must teach modern avenues of prosperity.