Pelifian: Largest Education Budget In The World
Failing American Students
By Henry Pelifian
The education profession has become a bottomless pit where money and resources are absorbed at rates unimaginable in the rest of the world. Despite that, there are dilapidated schools poorly equipped. The reason is not lack of resources, but misallocation of resources. For all education- school age and college the United States spends over $600 billion dollars annually. Teacher and professor salaries are well above the average salary for Americans who provide the tax base for education.
The recent National Geographic survey revealed that American students flunked geography. Among the nine countries in the survey the United States ranked next to last just barely ahead of Mexico. Who would have believed that with all of our resources and expenditures on education American students scored "D"-the same score as Mexico. American students answered two more questions correctly than Mexican students in geography. What is the education budget of Mexican schools? It is a fraction of ours in the United States, yet test results for Mexican and American students are similar in geography!
Students from Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, and Great Britain scored better than American students in geography. Geography, although an important subject, is not known as a difficult subject to master. Yet it appears it is a subject area that American educators are unable to teach successfully.
Some of the findings of the survey for American students:
Only 13% could locate Iraq or Iran on a Middle East map.
Only 14% could locate Israel on a Middle East map.
Only 17% could locate Afghanistan on a map.
Only 51% could locate New York State on a map.
Only 25% could accurately identify that the U.S. population fell within a correct range.
30% of American students overstated U.S. population at 1 to 2 billion people.
Respondents in all the other countries were better able to identify the population of the United States than American students.
Almost a third of American students could not identify the Pacific Ocean.
Most of the American students could not locate the countries included in the survey.
The president of National Geographic, John Fahey, said in a statement: "If our young people can't find places on a map and lack awareness of current events, how can they understand the cultural, economic and natural resource issues that confront us?"
Other surveys show that American students lag behind in math and science. In fact, in many major graduate schools in the United States the majority of graduate students are from foreign countries studying math and science.
The educational system has been captured by the so-called professionals in order to control the purse strings of education. The public is often shut out of determining expenditures based on performance. The argument that only education professionals alone can determine both the costs and the effectiveness in education appears to be invalid. Unless the public becomes an integral part of the education process our system will continue to decline. Unions ought not be able to shape education budgets without direct approval of the electorate. Today, citizens only vote on about 10% of a school system's budget; the rest of the budget is figuratively set in concrete between the unions and school board. School boards are often controlled by former teachers and government employees, which is an obvious conflict of interest that ought to be remedied by preventing public sector employees to serve in matters, which financially benefit their profession.
In general, the public sector has almost carte blanche to do as it pleases with budgets that are almost demanded. It is common today for state and local budgets to experience significant shortfalls. What is the usual remedy? Reduce expenditures you say. That never occurs. The only thing reduced is the rate of increase. The usual and typical solution is to raise taxes and today many of the taxes raised are in double digits. According to the latest U.S. Census data property taxes increased from $235 billion dollars to $265 billion dollars from 1998 to 2001, a 13% increase.
As long as the American citizen is not directly involved in the expenditure process of government the cost of government will rise faster and higher than necessary, for who will check or make sure the process is not abused at the expense of the American people? The elected representatives have been unable or unwilling to confront the public sector's inflated budgets in almost every activity. On the contrary, elected officials usually always support increases in school budgets securing the huge union voting block. Educators almost always declare there are insufficient funds for education programs, especially when student performance is observed to be unsatisfactory. Educators immediately demand more funding to remedy the problem. How can we continue to say we are the greatest country in the world with an educational system that is increasingly not performing adequately for tens of millions of children in America?
Accountability and measurable outcomes ought to be integral to any governmental operation, including education. It is something we do not adequately have today. One possible solution is to have a separate testing and evaluation department in every school district.
Government intervention in the marketplace often leads to higher costs. The key to America's future will not solely lie in the public sector and public officials. It may be more important to enact laws limiting government spending, which only can increase by voter approval. Too much power and discretion in spending by politicians is not a recipe for a secure future. Our founding fathers knew that explicitly and tried to insure that in the Constitution. However, open-ended interpretations of government and our Constitution have permitted the public sector to grow to a size that swallows revenues from taxation insatiably and voraciously.
A growing bloated public sector bureaucracy now sits on the American people.
About The Author:
Toogood Reports contributor and "Best of the Web" award-winning writer Henry Pelifian has an MBA in International Management and brings with him an international background in both the public and private sector. His work has been published in the Bangkok Post and The Nation, both newspapers in Thailand.
Copyright 1999, 2000 by Toogood Reports. All rights reserved.
Source: Toogood Reports