December 22, 2008
By Israel Ortega
With daily doses of bad news coming in the form of rising
unemployment and business failures, the words "financial crisis"
are everywhere. Meanwhile another crisis is receiving virtually no
media attention, even though it potentially threatens our future
economic prosperity and national security.
I'm referring to our country's education system.
In some of our major cities, nearly half of all children
enrolled in the public school system won't graduate high school.
And according to data from the Department of Education, 33 percent
of fourth graders and 26 percent of eight graders scored "below
basic" in reading in 2007. And with Hispanic students representing
more of the student body in our nation's public schools,
(particularly in cities like Los Angeles and New York) this issue
hits close to home.
The fact that the Census Bureau predicts a dramatic growth in
the U.S. Hispanic population makes this educational statistic all
the more alarming.
Although education received considerably less attention this
year than other issues, it was encouraging to hear President-elect
Barack Obama say, "We cannot be satisfied until every child in
America -- I mean every child -- has the same chance for a good
education that we want for our own children."
In a matter of days, though, the president-elect will need to
match his rhetoric with action when he announces his nominee for
Secretary of Education. Obama's appointment will signal how
beholden he will be to the powerful teachers' unions.
Instrumental in helping the president-elect garner political
support, teachers' union are a powerful constituency with
considerable clout. And like other unions, the teachers' unions
exist to protect their more than 4 million members by fighting for
increased salaries and benefits. But as those earlier troubling
statistics note, what's good for teachers is not necessarily good
for our children enrolled in the public-school system.
Unfortunately, some aim to fix the broken public-school system
by increasing federal spending. And yet, it's clear from various
studies that the most dramatic improvements in education are
happening on the state level. They're not directed from Washington,
Despite spending roughly $9,300 annually (according to the
Digest of Education Statistics) on each child enrolled in a public
school, reading and math scores reveal the sobering reality that we
are failing to prepare our future lawyers, doctors and scientists.
This is simply unacceptable.
The reality is that no matter who Obama appoints, that person
alone won't be able to solve the problems in the nation's schools.
Real solutions can be found on the local level, starting with
Providing each and every family the ability to choose for
themselves where to send their children to school makes the most
sense. And it would dramatically and swiftly focus our education
system on the children.
The Obama family recently exercised school choice, by electing
to enroll its children in a private school in Washington, D.C.
Now it's time for the president-elect to fight to give everyone
else the same right.
Israel Ortega is
a Senior Media Services Associate at the Heritage Foundation and
has more than half a decade working in Congress and Washington,
First appeared on Siglo21.com
With daily doses of bad news coming in the form of rising unemployment and business failures, the words "financial crisis" are everywhere. Meanwhile another crisis is receiving virtually no media attention, even though it potentially threatens our future economic prosperity and national security.
Education Initiative of the Leadership for America Campaign
Strategic Initiatives Manager
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