Whenever I hear the yearly announcement that the US is yet again trailing in math and science, I also notice that the op-ed columns immediately start the blame game. So, who is to blame for our kid’s poor school performance? Consider these facts:
- 92% of the funds for elementary and secondary level comes from non-Federal sources.
- The Department of Education delivers about 99 cents on the dollar in education assistance to States, school districts, postsecondary institutions, and students.
- The Department’s staff is 46 percent below the 1980 high of 7,528 employees.
So if only 8% of the funds for elementary (k or 1-5) and secondary level (6-12) education comes from the Federal government, why then does the Federal government get blamed so much for our low math and science rankings? I understand that the Department’s mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access”, but surely they should only get a portion of the blame relative to the amount they fund the failing educational system. Shouldn’t we be looking at the other 92% of the $1 trillion spend on education — individual State, local, and private sources?
Considering Private School
Our 56 million students attend 99,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools. That’s a lot of private schools to consider! And here’s the kicker — some research is indicating that private schools aren’t necessarily doing better than their public school counterparts. Sure private schools can excel — like in 8th grade English — but the belief that private schools consistently excel in all subjects at all grade levels is not supported by all the research.
My Public/Private Educational Experience
So, who else can we blame? I’ll consider my own education. I went to public school for my entire education except for two and a half years at a private Baptist school in Savannah, Georgia. I think my intellectual growth was stunted during those years of private school education. Perhaps that is an unfair statement when I compare that growth to my later education. Nearly 5% of the students from my high school graduating class ended up going to an Ivy League school — and most of them could do so without receiving a scholarship.
Regardless of my private or public school attendance, during all my years of education I had a very supportive parent that was interested in my education. At a basic level, I never had to worry about being hungry, cold, or clothed. In addition, they inquired about my studies, did homework with me, fed my curiosity with educational summer programs and camps, and funded my extra-curricular activities.
In other words, I mostly blame my parents for my education. Thankfully, I had a good one.