I was reading in this morning’s Seattle Times about all the cutbacks in education that our schools and colleges are facing, both in our own Washington State and around the country. I find it incredibly shortsighted that even given these difficult economic times, that we would shortchange our schools and stifle the education of our young students.
The U.S. has already fallen in the world educational rankings of countries according to the latest surveys. We are currently rated as “average”. This is not my opinion, this is a sad reality.
According to a OECD 2010 study, in a study of international student assessment (PISA) report, when our students were compared with 70 other countries, the United States finished 14th overall in the world. Countries such as South Korea, Estonia, Poland and Finland finished well ahead of us. The U.S. ranked 14th in reading skills, 17th in science and we were ranked a dismal 25th in mathematics. Only eight of these 70 countries have a lower high school graduation rate that the United States does. We are third from the bottom in the percentage of 15 year olds who are enrolled in school above only Mexico and Turkey.
And now we are reducing our educational funding even more? I’d hate to see where we’ll be a few years from now if we continue to reduce spending on education.
You might ask what the correlation is between education and the economy. According to the OECD report, the investment in education is paid back many times over. Boosting U.S. scores for reading, math and science by just 25 points over the next ten or twenty years would result in a gain of 41 trillion dollars for the United States economy for that generation of students. Since I admittedly would not help our scores in math, I can’t even translate what this means to our country, but I do know that it’s significant.
What I do understand and I wish everyone in our country did; is that the more educated our populace is, the less money we spend on a myriad of other social problems. Think about this for just a moment? With a more educated populace, we would spend less on fighting crime, less on unemployment, less on drug control, less on the environment, less on health care and the list goes on and on. Talk about being “penny wise and pound foolish”. By reducing our educational funding, you can be sure we’ll pay for this disproportionally, down the line.
If it were up to me, our teachers would be among the highest paid and most valued members of our society. I find it absurd that we pay our teachers barely enough to live on and usually not even enough to raise a family. We expect our teachers to devote their lives to better others at their own sacrifice. Their roles in educating our youth, our leaders of tomorrow are as critically important as any career that I can possibly think of.
I would suggest that we tie teachers’ earnings directly to their effectiveness. I would not recommend granting tenure to teachers. Just like in the corporate world, I believe if teachers didn’t produce results, that they would be looking for a new job. Teachers’ salaries should be dependent on the improvements that their students show. Let their effectiveness as educators be measured and rewarded. If a teacher is making a difference and truly raising the education level of his or her students, let’s make sure that those accomplished educators can make a generous income.
If we properly fund education, if we start paying teachers what they should be earning and we measure their effectiveness; you can bet that it won’t take long before the U.S. is again at the top of the charts relative to the educational level of our populace. However, if we continue to undervalue and underfund education, how long will it be before our economic and social systems fail and we become subservient to more educated countries? You think we have it tough now?
It’s not too late to support better education! Spread the word, let our political leaders in Olympia know, let our federal government know. Expect and demand better education for our young students. And let’s be willing to pay for it. Otherwise, I can guarantee you that we’ll all end up paying a much bigger price for our shortsighted negligence in the not-too-distant future.