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Some 40 Years Later: A Nation STILL at Risk

Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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by Outside Contributor
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School’s out for the summer, so now it is time to examine the state of our education system.

By any objective measure, our school performance is fair or poor for most children. Math scores hit a 20-year low. ACT scores dropped to a 30-year low last year. In dozens of schools throughout the country, not one child is reading or practicing math at grade-level proficiency. Not one!

Some of this poor performance is due to the unforgivable mistake of shutting down our schools during COVID-19 – despite children being less vulnerable to the virus.

But our schools were in long-term decline BEFORE the pandemic.

One of the world’s top education scholars, Eric Hanushek, recently issued a report on the 40-year anniversary of the famous federal study published in 1983 called “A Nation at Risk.” That study famously warned that “if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

But tragically, nobody listened or paid attention to the warning. The unions kept pushing for more money with no accountability. Schools were turned into social welfare agencies instead of factories for learning. So they started to pursue both missions — poorly. In more recent years, educators decided their job was to teach about social justice, climate change radicalism, LGBTQ issues and “systemic racism.”

In many public schools, patriotism and love of country gave way to a “blame America first” narrative.

Math, reading and science took a backseat.

But the taxpayer money poured in as if from a firehouse. Hanushek notes that, adjusted for inflation, per-pupil spending since 1960 quadrupled. Since 1980 the funding per student has doubled.

Yet over the past several decades, there isn’t much evidence of improvement (if any). In most school districts, the reverse is true.

The feds have kicked in hundreds of billions too. Yet there is virtually no evidence that Uncle Sam’s spending has added much value. Mostly it’s added more red tape. Test scores haven’t budged.

Still, President Joe Biden’s plan is to spend hundreds of billions more – mostly because the teacher unions are the strongest force in the modern Democratic Party. Unions. Not parents.

Finally, after 40 years of failure, parents are taking notice and taking action. The parental choice movement is gaining steam – especially in red states. Some 13 states in the last two years have added programs to allow education dollars to follow the kids – that means lower-income parents are provided the funding to send their kids to charter schools, Catholic schools or other alternatives.

This should hopefully provide incentives for the public schools to compete and improve.

One of Hanushek’s key conclusions provides some glimmer of hope. He finds “some evidence that spending more money can improve student learning in public schools.” But he adds conditionally that the dollars need to be tied to “rewarding performance.”

For example, incentivizing teacher excellence through pay for performance and getting rid of bad teachers – by eliminating or reforming tenure – can improve schools and throw a lifeline to kids.

Here’s the problem: the teacher unions are adamantly opposed to anyone measuring THEIR performance.

They can grade the students, but no one dares to grade the teachers.

Back in 1983, the warning was that our schools had slipped into a cesspool of “mediocrity.” Here we are over 40 years later, and in too many cities and states, mediocrity would be a vast improvement.

Reforms are coming – but will they get here soon enough? We certainly can’t wait another 40 years.

Stephen Moore is a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a senior economic advisor to Donald Trump. His latest book is: “Govzilla: How the Relentless Growth of Government Is Devouring Our Economy.”

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The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AMAC or AMAC Action.

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Bernard P. Giroux
Bernard P. Giroux
26 days ago

This tragedy [and it can only be described as such] will ultimately ruin this nation, unless there is an immediate about face. In my opinion, of Pres. Trump is re-elected, god-willing, he should defund and close the Departments of Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services; HUD; and Justice [particularly the FBI]. He should cut the funding of the remaining departments in half and put then on a zero base budgeting plan.
The states should take over where it is appropriate. Teachers’ unions should be forced to re-educate their members and school board curricula should be forced to include history, government and civics classes, including geography and math, on the heavy side. Primary and secondary education should be revamped to deliver patriots instead of voter drones. Kids need a moral compass; not political indoctrination. Same for the college curricula. DEI is out; woke is out; ESG is out; white supremacy is out. Meritocracy is in. Period. Capitalism is in. Period. Anything made in China should be sent back. People have to learn to work in factories; in shipyards; and becoming a tradesman should be a noble enterprise and career. The military must be strengthened; woke and DEI kicked out. LBGTQ formats, ideology and other nonsense like changing genders should be banned, period. This fiddling with no God in the background must stop. We must be brought back in to respect for one another and have the ability to debate and discuss. Climate change ideology must be exposed for what it is: control of man and his fate. In 260 years, man could not have possibly existentially affected the climate. Earth’s time is measured in eons and epochs. not man-years. Oil, Gas and nuclear are there for a purpose; they are strategic commodities. We cannot exist without them. Everyone is ignoring hydro power. Let’s stop this foolishness. Hell is the truth seen too late. [Thomas Hobbes, 17th century].

Melinda
Melinda
26 days ago

As a former teacher, I watched the education of our children slide downhill starting in the 1970s, but picking up speed in the 90s. GW Bush’s No Child Left Behind was a disaster, then the Common Core curriculum lowered standards even more. The federal government should get out of education, get rid of that department. Whatever the feds try to run goes to hell and wastes money. Kids need to learn the basics of reading, writing, math. Also history, science, and civics. And reinstall discipline in schools, or get rid of schools for another option. Sorry for the rant!

Lover of America and GOD!
Lover of America and GOD!
26 days ago

Thank GOD for students that are Home Schooled! At least they will be able to read and do math! Our FUTURE!

Myrna
Myrna
26 days ago

The only solution I can see is tie compensation to student success. There have been complaints about teaching tied to standardized testing — that somehow “teaching to the test” is not enough of the right stuff. I say evidence that each student is growing in reading, writing, mathematics each year should be required of teachers. No growth over some period, for example two years — no growth, no pay. I am a “hard hearted Hannah,” but every other job requires performance does it not? A job well-done should bring a bonus. More money added to the budget will not guarantee student success.

anna hubert
anna hubert
26 days ago

We have a brand new contingent of students to accommodate now How that will go I can’t imagine For those born here can’t perform well if parents even after more then 10 years do not speak English and have no intentions to learn it That children suffer for it is of no importance Teachers do not care we are multi culti after all Diversity not unity is a new motto How could any student thrive in such jungle They were little geniuses 40 years ago

Sean Rickman
Sean Rickman
22 days ago

What a sick country AMERICA has become.The democrats/leftists push this AMERICA is bad thing and are getting the point across.It is really sad what has happened over the last fifty or so years.With all their lies and chicanery they will continue their destruction of AMERICA.I am over eighty-five years old have seen what the democrats have become,they ARE the party that has changed,NOT for the better.

MariaRose
MariaRose
26 days ago

The only teachers complaining about being held to a standard of performance measuring their skill to develop learning ability in students are the teachers who are not there to teach but to collect a paycheck merely based on the number of years they have been in that position regardless of the number of their students who go forward having learned appreciation of using their minds to develop their learning skills which are not shown in an ability to pass a form standardized test but how the students can adapt to new learning environments to better themselves no matter what life circumstances because their teachers enhance their desire to learn more. The teachers’ unions don’t encourage teachers to develop their students’ ability to learn but to maintain a desired numeric student population because funding of the school budget is based on the number of students and most of that funding goes to the teachers’ salaries as controlled by the union contract. Why do you think they have reduced the school year to 180 days and control the number of minutes the teachers work daily in minute detail–Those early school start with breakfast meals served and those afterschool programs are just extra ways to spend more money without keeping the teachers teaching their students. And let’s not talk about using remote learning instruction as a substitute method to avoid making the teachers physically involved with teaching their students on days the weather doesn’t allow the school building to be open. The student loses a day of instruction, yet the teachers with the new teachers’ contract are paid for the day–that is if the teacher is a tenured union member. Nothing is paid to any substitute teachers in benefits unless they get granted permanent status by the school board, which occurs maybe after working 5-6 years as a substitute teacher.

Smike
Smike
10 days ago

So AMAC why did you sit back and allow the Social Security Act of 2024 to take away a benefit that had existed for decades that I had planned on to help my wife get by after I pass away. Before you let the Social Security Act of 2024 the surviving spouse could take the higher of the two social security benefits. That’s gone – Thanks AMAC
Is this the first chip from Social Security with more to follow that you’re just going to watch and do nothing about?

DrScottD
DrScottD
17 days ago

Government is intended to be Limited by the Constitution, but it’s creeped to ubiquitous. Our Rights are not from Government and they are to be protected at all costs, but slowly eroded or usurped by the same people who swear they will defend and protect them.
Bureaucrats, not interested in the future generations stability in my opinion, are Not the ones who should be legislative bodies, but they have been able to and keep growing their livelihoods with more and more rules and regulations.
This Nation’s debts have been unsustainable for decades now, with average Americans pleading to Balance the Budgets of the DC Cesspool idiocy. “How Much $$ are Too Much Debt USA Congress and POTUS? The only way to stop getting further into a hole is to STOP DIGGING FURTHER INTO THE HOLE.
GEEZ, isn’t there any person in DC that can say that and stop voting for any more debts?

Jeannie Huppert
Jeannie Huppert
19 days ago

1 “answer” fix MANY but probably not yet all problems. OUST THE ILLEGAL SQUATTER who sits in what resembles the Oval Office. From the looks of YouTube, God’s House Cleaning Operation is in full swing: pelosi, merrick garland, how many bidens, etc., etc. THANK YOU LORD GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

uncleferd
uncleferd
26 days ago

What is Moore talking about?? Wait… does he mean… public educators… must DO THEIR JOB????
NO WAY, MAN !!!! That bad boy’s a LONG way down the road !! Now get another toke ‘o this bone…

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