Thursday, March 10, 2011

Obama IS the Education President

In a matter related to budget cuts, President Obama is a little ticked off that as part of the overall budget reduction efforts, education is a target (among many targets) of the slashers.

“We cannot cut back on the very investments that will help our economy grow and our nation to compete,” Mr. Obama said (after touring Massachusetts’ TechBoston Academy with Belinda Gates).  “There is nothing responsible about cutting back in our investment in these young people.”

On the surface, Obama’s statement has some validity. Education is very important for both our domestic economy and how we compete in the world economy. We need to produce smarter, better students and graduates if we what to remain at the top of the heap. But what are we getting from our investment in education. Right now we are about middle of the pack. According to a report on at

Among adults age 25-34, the US is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that at least a high school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.

The report goes on the say:

In all levels of education, the United States spends $11,152 per student. That’s the second highest amount, behind the $11,334 spent by Switzerland.

According to the Organisation for Economic co-operations and Development (OECD) are numbers are also about the middle of the road. (Link and quote via Huffington Post)

The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessments (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.

What has me concerned is when you couple the amount of money we spend (2nd overall), to our placement in the world ranking (average to below average), we are not getting the bang for the buck that we should expect. Someone needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out why we are spending so much yet doing so poorly.

I also found it a bit odd that Obama would make a statement about investment in education after touring a school facility that was a recipient of a large chunk of money from the Gates Foundation, a private charitable organization. What the story doesn’t mention is there are certain agreements that must be met by any school district that receives money from the Gates Foundation. There is normally some form of vetting process for students to get into the school (although not terribly strict). Parents must agree to be a part of the education process. Teachers are paid on a performance basis. Teachers that can’t cut the mustard in the Gates’ funded schools are let go. And probably most important of all, both the student and parent are ready for the type of structured education provided by a school that receives funding from the Gates Foundation. I think the one thing that completely escapes the community organizer is that the money invested in the school in which he just toured was from a private source.

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