Spending is Not the Problem

In 2002, under the auspices of George W. Bush, a bi-partisan supported reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1965 was passed as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2002. The reauthorization pledged to eliminate the achievement gap between black and white students, and the one between poor and middle-class students. In just 12 years, by 2014, the president vowed, African-American, Hispanic and poor children, all of whom were at the time scoring well below their white counterparts and those in the middle class, would not only catch up with the rest of the nation; they would also reach 100 percent proficiency in both math and reading. This would thereby narrow the achievement gap. We are nowhere near fulfilling that goal today.

Instead, what we have seen since NCLB was passed is what appears to be a prolific increase in the disparities that we define as the achievement and opportunity gap. Here are a few to put this argument in perspective:

  • Today, young Americans only have a 29 percent chance of going to college if their parents haven’t, among the lowest in the developed world (OECD 2012)
  • 74% of those now attending colleges that are classified as “most competitive,” a group that includes schools like Harvard, Emory, Stanford and Notre Dame, come from families with earnings in the top income quartile, while only three percent come from families in the bottom quartile (Kahlenberg 2004)
  • More than 1.3 million students don’t graduate from school each year (Levin et al. 2012)
  • The achievement gap, which is most prevalent among minorities and those living in socioeconomically disadvantaged conditions, has been estimated to cost our nation between $310 and $525 billion in Gross Domestic Product each year, which is the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession (“Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” 2009)

Furthermore, spending on a per student basis has only continued to increase as the education sector has swelled to become a $1 trillion dollar industry; yet, the results have been stagnant.

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I’m looking forward to presenting more on my findings next week! In the meantime, I would love to hear thoughts on these inequities.

About Karim Abouelnaga

Karim Abouelnaga is a senior at Cornell working toward a bachelor’s degree at the School of Hotel Administration. He is the founder of Practice Makes Perfect, Inc. a nonprofit that works to provide socioeconomically disadvantaged youth with mentors and resources that are beyond the reach of their inner-city public schools. In addition to being an advocate for the LIFE foundation, a nonprofit that provides life insurance education, a New York Needs You fellow and a REACH scholar.
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2 Responses to Spending is Not the Problem

  1. mlewis6 says:

    Karim, I like the idea and I think your focus on spending in education is interesting. It seems that you make the argument that “spending” is the problem, but I wonder if “targeted spending” is the issue: our funding for our education simply is not going to the right areas right now (e.g. testing) v. the bulk of spending isn’t fixing the problem, so let’s slash that. I’d also be interested to see aggregate changes in state level funding for education over the same period (or possibly divided by region).

  2. Thank you for the comment!

    If I had to put my finger on the problem it would be resource allocation. There are current systems in place today that are draining funding with little or no success. If we can more prudently allocate the resources we already have, then we will move one step closer to solving the US public education problems.

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