Education: Pre-K through Higher Ed

“President Obama soon will be announcing a plan to substantially boost funding for the nation’s community colleges, with an aim of helping more workers get the job-training they need in the coming decade,” the Chicago Tribune reported on June 17, 2009.

Then President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers announced that jobs in both the healthcare industry and the environmental field have been growing at rates faster than others in the economy and reform would be necessary to ensure workers have the skills needed for these jobs.

While funding to better our community colleges may be warranted, there is still the underlying issue of current (and historical) student literacy and dropout rates.

A 2006 report by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation states that the high school drop out rate is nearly 33% and closer to 50% for African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans. There are similar studies with nearly identical figures, including that of Time magazine, which ran a front cover proclaiming that the US is “Drop-Out Nation.”

In some areas, it is even far worse. The Manhattan Institute calculated that the drop out rate in Milwaukee was 66% while the Cleveland City School District hit an astonishing 71%.

Studies typically find that illiteracy and the inability to calculate basic math are primary reasons why students drop out of school.

There is also mention of increased funding for Early Head Start which, I believe, is much more needed than funding for higher education, at least proportionately, due to the fact that a) there are such high dropout rates and b) many students who do graduate still need remediation in order to do their college assignments.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy states that the national cost for remedial education is approximately $16.6 Billion annually. It would certainly be nice to put that money to use in another area of education (or save it).

So, while I agree that each of the various areas of education need to be addressed, it seems that Main Street USA must be primarily focused on students currently in K-12 and working to ensure that these students possess the reading and math skills needed for college, then setting sights on Early Head Start and community college reform.

Over For Now,

Main Street One