We have a crisis in our schools. This is not a new revelation, but it needs to be stated regardless, particularly at the start of another academic year and at a time when America is struggling to compete in the very fields — math, science, technology — that are defining the global economy. Consider that U.S. high school students graduate with just a 32 percent proficiency rate in math, according to a Harvard study — a figure that puts America behind 31 other countries, including Japan, Korea, Switzerland and Canada.
Wow. The United States spends more on education per pupil than other country on earth, except for Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Norway. And yet, according to the Harvard study cited above, “U.S. high school students graduate with just a 32 percent proficiency rate in math.” This is disgraceful. Sadly, however, it gets worse:
The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.
So how is it possible we are spending massive sums of money on education yet student achievement remains stagnant? Perhaps one reason is because taxpayer dollars are increasingly going to fund teachers’ pension funds — not educating children. Case in point: As Katie reported last week, the city of Chicago might be a microcosm of all that is wrong with the US public education system. Indeed, according to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, “by 2016 the state will spend more on pension contributions than education funding.” Every thoughtful citizen with an ounce of moral fiber in their bones should be outraged by that statement. Even worse, the average teacher salary in the Windy City is $76,000 – and yet, somehow, the high school graduation rate barely exceeds fifty percent. In short, how can America compete in a global economy if the greatest, most prosperous nation in the world can’t even educate its own citizens?
There is a solution to this crisis. We must increase competition. Period. For instance, even in Chicago — a city controlled by the teachers unions — charter schools have created real hope for thousands of American children. The graduation rate in these kinds of schools (which are non-union, by the way), is 76 percent. And these teachers make substantially less money than their unionized counterparts. Do people actually believe this is just a coincidence? When families are given more options — and teachers are held to higher standards — everybody benefits. We need to wake up.