Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tax cuts for the rich, or better teachers in schools?

Ditto for Matt Miller:

It was depressing enough when the president caved on extending $120 billion in tax cuts for the highest-earning 2 percent of Americans at a time of war and surging debt. As proof of White House fear and timidity, and Republican greed and myopia, the news doesn't get much worse.

That's $120 billion over two years that won't go to boost job creation. Nor will it fund a portion of the $300 billion we'll spend on wars during same period - instead, we'll borrow that abroad and hand the bill to the kids. Worse, none of that cash will be available to lure America's top young talent to the classroom by finally making teaching a prestigious, well-paying career.

Oops - I forgot - no one in the tax and budget talks was talking about transforming the teaching profession as part of America's long-term economic recovery plan. After all, that would mean thinking beyond 2012. Yet the education world was rocked Tuesday when students in Shanghai, in that city's debut on a respected international test, outscored dozens of other countries in math, science and reading.

Shanghai was No. 1 in all three subjects; the United States was 17th, 23rd and 31st. "I'm thinking Sputnik," Chester Finn, a Reagan administration education official, told the New York Times.

This grim reminder of our lagging schools comes atop stunning new research that shows that even America's best students aren't achieving anything close to world-class performance.

…Math (and science) achievement today predicts technological leadership and economic strength tomorrow. So these results should shock us. And they're related to the tax debate. We'll never attract enough talented young Americans to teach subjects such as math and science when average starting teacher salaries in the United States are $39,000 and rise (over decades) to an average maximum of $67,000. That tax benefit of $120 billion might have endowed a hefty federal effort to remake the teaching profession for the 21st century. The showdown could have been between "the new generation of teachers America needs to compete" vs. "lower taxes for the top."

This is how the debate needs to start sounding - and fast. As part of her newly launched advocacy group, Students First, former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee should take these scary new findings to editorial boards, business groups and PTAs in every state. Only when enough of us wake up to the fact that we're losing badly in today's global education race will we have a hope of getting serious about turning things around.


Tax cuts for the rich, or better teachers in schools?

By Matt Miller

Thursday, December 9, 2010

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