Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Obamanomics of Education

A local blogger published a brief post on the current state of America's education system. I find the post is particularly timely, and the comments diverse and insightful.

Jewel raises an interesting point. Given the massive and unprecedented levels of federal spending embarked on by the Obama/Bush administrations, what percent of stimulus spending is targeted towards education? Does the Obama administration recognize that education is a long term engine of economic growth? In terms of potential for economic stimulus, where does education rank with respect to other areas, such as green technology, the automotive industry, and others?

Consider that Broward has seen hundreds of teachers laid off this year. Has any serious consideration given to the long term economic effects of teacher layoffs versus Detroit auto workers? Do we really need to spend billions of dollars to retire otherwise roadworthy private vehicles? Exactly how does the "cash for clunkers" program solve the long term problem, which is the simple fact that the Japanese build better cars then we do? Would we not receive a similar, if not superior, short and long term economic benefit by investing in education? Why is an employed Detroit auto worker better for society than an employed teacher?

Back to school spending is expected to drop close to 10% this year. Unlike other slumps, this one has a two-fold impact. For one, all the jobs associated with school supply production and distribution are at risk. But secondly, and arguably more important, children will have fewer of the tools they need to learn. In the long run, that economic impact is much worse for us. So why are we bailing out failing automakers instead of at-risk education-related industries?

Is it just a simple fact that the auto-worker's union does a better lobbying job than the teacher's union? Didn't Obama promise that lobbyists weren't going to run Washington anymore? So I don't get it. Where is all the money to buy new computers, high-speed internet, remodeled classrooms, and (where needed) increased security for public (and/or private) schools?

I agree wholeheartedly with one of Jewel's commentators that money can't solve all our country's education problems. Parental attitudes need some serious shaping up, as education begins at home. But money does play a role in the quality of education that any system, private or public, is capable of delivering, particularly with respect to children with special needs.

Very likely, the fact that education was overlooked as a priority in the recent round of stimulous spending means there's going to be less money for it down the road. After all, someone has to pay for our new government health care programs. The "rich" can only be milked for so much, its unlikely Obama can tap them as a source to overhaul the US education system as well. The problem is, if we don't start educating America's young minds, there won't be anybody "rich" enough in the future to tax.

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