by Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams
In fact, except for the debilitating effects of poverty, our public school system may be the best in the world.
The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveal that the U.S. ranked high, relative to other OECD countries, in reading, math, and science (especially in reading, and in all areas better in 4th grade than in 8th grade). Some U.S. private schools were included, but a separate evaluation was done for Florida, in public schools only, and their results were higher than the U.S. average.
Perhaps most significant in the NCES reading results is that schools with less than 25% free-lunch eligibility scored higher than the average in ALL OTHER COUNTRIES.
The Obvious: Reduce Poverty and Improve Education
What should be obvious to our legislators is apparently not. K-12 funding declined in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records. A 2014 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that “States’ new budgets are providing less per-pupil funding for kindergarten through 12th grade than they did six years ago — often far less.”
It gets worse. Numerous studies have shown that pre-school helps all children to achieve more and earn more through adulthood, with the most disadvantaged benefiting the most. But the U.S. ranks near the bottom of the developed world in the percentage of 4-year-olds in early childhood education. And yet Head Start was recently hit with the worst cutbacks in its history.
The evidence for national improvement is staring us in the face, but the people in charge are ignoring facts and experience and turning instead to the corporate profit-seekers.
How Education Funding is Put in the Hands of the Super-Rich
Tax money that should be used for education is either deferred or simply not paid, by both corporations and individuals. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, for example, has deferred $44 billion in recent years, and Boeing, Caterpillar, and Verizon are a few of the leading non-payers of state taxes, some of which would go toward public education.
Wealthy individuals, who took much of the nearly $5 trillion in stock market gains in 2013, defer taxes until they cash in the stocks, and then pay a lower capital gains rate. They can also get tax breaks by putting some of this money into their reform-minded educational foundations.
Using the Corporate Model on Our Children
Much of the vast new wealth of the super-rich is being used for the purpose of educational ‘reform.’ Rupert Murdoch called K-12 “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.” Forbes added, “The charter school movement [is] quickly becoming a backdoor for corporate profit.” Most recently, the Wall Street Journal reported, “As states race to implement the Common Core academic standards, companies are fighting for a slice of the accompanying testing market, expected to be worth billions of dollars in coming years.”
The result of private educational reform is seen in unproven charter schools that eat up budgets, overcharge on a per-student basis, pay CEOs many times more than their public school counterparts, and, in one case, double the pay of executives in just one year.
These are unsustainable costs for long-term educational success.
The Business of Schoolchildren
In Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren said, “Education…is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.” In the mindset of big business, the best education is in learning how to make money off the children.
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Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org), and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at paul@UsAgainstGreed.org.