Our Broken Escalator
Nick Kristof with a powerful op ed in today's NYT not to gut education in these tough times – exactly right, but the key is: how?
THE United States supports schools in Afghanistan because we know that education is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to build a country.
Alas, we've forgotten that lesson at home. All across America, school budgets are being cut, teachers laid off and education programs dismantled.
My beloved old high school in Yamhill, Ore. — a plain brick building that was my rocket ship — is emblematic of that trend. There were only 167 school days in the last school year here (180 was typical until the recession hit), and the staff has been reduced by 9 percent over five years.
This school was where I embraced sports, became a journalist, encountered intellectual worlds, and got in trouble. These days, the 430 students still have opportunities to get into trouble, but the rest is harder.
…Yamhill is far from alone. The Center on Education Policy reports that 70 percent of school districts nationwide endured budget cuts in the school year that just ended, and 84 percent anticipate cuts this year.
In higher education, the same drama is unfolding. California's superb public university system is being undermined by the biggest budget cuts in the state's history. Tuition is set to rise about 20 percent this year, on top of a 26 percent increase last year, which means that college will become unaffordable for some.
The immediate losers are the students. In the long run, the loser is our country.
Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, two Harvard economists, argue in their book "The Race Between Education and Technology" that a prime factor in America's rise over the last two centuries was its leadership in educating the masses.
July 16, 2011