“It’s An Education Bombshell.” Yup, it sure is. Unbelievable news out of New York City where it is being reported that “80 percent of recent” New York City “high school graduates cannot read.” More:
“Nearly 80 percent of New York City high school graduates need to relearn basic skills before they can enter the City University’s community college system.” (“Officials: 80 Percent Of Recent NYC High School Graduates Cannot Read,” CBSNewYork, 3/7/13)
Over the course of the past week or so, I’ve been on an education kick, posting a couple of entries here on ThinkFY (you can read those here and here) about mounting evidence that we are failing to give today’s children the tools to be successful later in life.
Last Friday, I posted this piece about “revisiting education reform” after the Nation’s Report Card came out and showed that students are falling further behind the rest of the world that is growing all the more competitive in the global economy.
Now we have this story about Florida students performing abysmally on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test exam, specifically the writing portion, which was “made more difficult” than years past.
Back in March and April of 2011, I did an eleven-part series on the state of education in America and efforts to reform a failing system (I’ll provide links at the end for anyone interested). I bring this up now because the Nation’s Report Card is out and shows more of the same: an educational complex in shambles with special interests more engrossed with furthering their own causes than championing the learning of today’s youth and tomorrow’s leaders.
“About 22 percent of California’s eighth-graders tested on a national science test passed, ranking the Golden State among the worst in the nation, according to figures released Thursday.” (Fermin Leal, “Calif. Students Rank 47th In Science,” The Orange County Register,” 5/10/12)
U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) penned an opinion piece for Politico on Monday evening titled, “Updating No Child Left Behind.” In it, Senator Harkin argues the No Child Left Behind legislation needs an overhaul that retains “its commitment to educating all children to high standards, while overhauling elements of the law that have proved ineffective.” Harkin’s measures for reform sound very reasonable, including focusing on “teaching and learning, not testing and sanctioning,” and eliminating “one-size-fits-all approaches” by replacing existing law with “state-designed accountability systems.” Further, Harkin writes, “the bill aims for a federal role that does fewer things – more effectively.” Wow, he almost sounds more like a Republican here than a liberal Democrat.
Few would argue that Harkin, as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions, is a central figure in efforts to reform education. And to many, Senator Harkin seems the ideal man for the job.
For the first time tonight, in what appears to be a settled field of Republican candidates for the nomination to run as the party’s standard bearer for President, many issues were debated. One of them was education.
A question was posed to Texas Governor Rick Perry about his record on education and recent budget cuts. Perry acquitted himself well, pointing to the fact that companies continue to come to his state to relocate their businesses because there is a strong, well-educated work force.
That is all well and good, but what struck me was the question itself. The implication was – from the pointed bias – that cutting money for education equates to diminished returns on education. Some may believe that America’s education ills are a matter of money. I suggest that it is not.
This is mindboggling. Lisa Leff of The Associated Press is reporting the California State Senate “has approved legislation that would require California’s public schools to include gay history in social studies lessons.”
Seriously. At a time when America’s youth are falling behind the rest of the world in their studies and children are not being taught the basic fundamental principles, traditions and values of our Republic, California lawmakers want to make sure students are well versed in gay history. This despite a recent study that estimates homosexuals comprise about 2% of the population. 2%! Even if you take the higher end of the spectrum, that 3 to 5% of the population is homosexual, you have to wonder why “gay history” is so important.
When setting course to reform education, specifically to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” as President Barack Obama declared in his State of the Union Address in January, the interests of the children should come first and foremost. The interest of the taxpayers should also weigh heavily.
President Obama’s architect on education reform will likely be Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions. Where do Harkin’s interests lay? Are they with the children, taxpayers, or the country? Or do his interests intersect with those who support him? This of course is no easy question to answer. So let’s take a look at some facts and figures, primarily Harkin’s benefactors.
President Barack Obama’s plan to “out-educate and out-build the rest of the world” includes spending a staggering $77.4 billion in the next fiscal year, an increase of nearly 4.5% above previous levels. This won’t be easy in this climate of necessary budget cuts. With Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, Obama’s go-to legislator will have to be in the U.S. Senate where Democrats still control the agenda and can carry his water. The Senator who Obama will rely on to implement his plan is likely to be Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions.
Senator Harkin seems the ideal man for the job. In the vein of Obama, Harkin’s a liberal’s liberal who views government as the primary solution to problems:
In Presidential politics, the maxim is always “are we better off today, than we were four years ago?” That question could apply to education: are we better off today than we were 30 years ago on the education front? The answer is, clearly not; but what to do?
President Barack Obama, the self-styled “agent of change,” appears set to travel down the same road we’ve been traveling, throwing more good money after bad at the symptoms, not the causes. Case in point, President Obama has repeatedly called for an “investment” in education. The so-called investment comes at the same time we face a severe fiscal crisis where the federal government is running trillion dollar, unsustainable deficits, and the nation’s debt exceeds $14.2 trillion.
Regardless, President Obama clearly controls the bully pulpit and will use it to drive the education agenda. We already know what direction he’s decided to go in: more spending.