As the state and federal government face a sea of red ink, everyone knows that very painful choices will need to be made. Spending must be drastically cut, but as nondefense discretionary spending represents only 19 percent of the federal budget, cuts will not be enough.
We must also grow revenues by creating well-paying jobs. To do this we need an education system that is up to the challenge. Our current system is geared to the needs of an economy that existed half a century ago and is decidedly not world-class.
We have already given up much ground. The TIMSS 2007 International Mathematics Report shows U.S. 8th graders in 10th place. The 2009 PISA rankings of 15-year-olds put the U.S. in seventh place in reading, 18th place in math, and 13th place in science.
With calls from every corner about how we must innovate and compete, the very next thing we do is put education on the chopping block. For years we have balanced our budgets on the backs of our very own children.
We are selling their future as well as our own to pay for broken systems and poor decision-making. If we hope to be anything other than a backwater on the world stage, we need to invest in and reform education, the only thing that will allow us to recover and lead once again.
More money is not necessarily the answer but less money is certainly not the right direction.
Our teaching methods and tools must be reexamined. Our notion of grades and the knowledge expected at each level needs to be rethought. We need unwavering commitment to end social promotion.
We must assure that teachers' and administrators' focus is solely on the students. We must reward teachers for performance and return teaching to a profession that is sought after and attracts the best talent.
Cutting education is like cutting off the oxygen that keeps us alive. We may breathe OK for a while but we will suffocate in the not too distant future, having committed economic suicide in the pursuit of balanced budgets.
Jay Bosch Atwater