Friday, March 21, 2008

If Only They Had the Money!

If you listen to Barack Obama, you would think that the only thing that stands between high school students and their entrance into college and their ultimate graduation is money. To overcome this, he proposes a $4000 tax credit to the parents of students who attend college (a fully refundable amount to low income families who can't afford it). He promises to make college affordable so that "we" can compete in the world. He believes if K through 12 teachers are paid more in America, we will have better education in this country. Let's reduce those class sizes, too! Finally, Obama says eliminate testing of students so they can focus on education; rather than focus on studying for the test. (See Obama's Full program).

However, this is naive position by Barack Obama; at best. This comes from a person who has served for years in both Chicago and the State of Illinois governments and whose own public school systems in the State of Illinois can barely graduate half of it's students. (click to see statistics). A recent study showed that only 6 out of 100 Chicago High School Freshman will graduate and actually go on to college. (click to see study). Of those who do actually go on to College, entering Freshman who had less than a 3.0 grade point average in high school were high unlikely to even graduate from College within a 6 year time frame; lacking the study skills to do so. Further, only 22 percent of those minorities who entered a college and were from the Chicago School System were able to graduate. One Illinois University, Northeastern, has the unenviable record of only being able to graduate 11 percent of the students that come out of the Chicago School System. A private, Catholic University, Loyola, can boast a 66 percent Graduation rate for students coming out of the City which, I think, says a lot about state-supported college education, at least, in the State of Illinois.

I think that it is interesting that Barack Obama wants to "preach" to this country that he has the solutions for education in the broader United States when he and the other elected officials in Illinois have such an abysmal record of boosting education in their own state. While the graduation rate in Illinois has improve from 49.8 percent in 1993 to the current 52 percent, it is still well behind the national average of 66% (Another horrible statistic on its own!). The problem with College education in America has less to do with money and more to do with our pre-College education system in this country. Barack, like a lot of Democrats, erroneously believes that if you keep throwing Federal money at a problem it will be fixed. Do you really think that a mere $4000 per year in a tax deduction will overcome the 22% minority graduation rate in Obama's home State of Illinois?

Sure, higher education costs are high in America. But, as I have said before, the consistently higher and higher costs for a college education in this country -- tuition rates running twice the rate of average inflation --- has a lot to do with the "law of supply and demand". We just don't have enough colleges and universities in this country. As long as our schools of higher education in this country can maintain full classes while turning away a high percentage of applying Freshman, these schools can continue to raise tuition rates without consequence. Believe me, if colleges and universities were having trouble filling all the seats for the Freshman class, they wouldn't be raising rates like they have.

Our education system in this country needs a top-to-bottom rework. What we teach needs to be seriously addressed. We need to address the high rate of drop-outs in high school. And, we seriously need to address why we have such low graduation rates in this country. While the teacher's unions wouldn't agree, we need to stratify the salaries of teacher's in this country so that Math and Science teacher's get higher pay than, say, a gym instructor. Finally, there are a lot of social ills that are a major component as to whether or not people complete higher and lower education.

Does anyone really think that reducing class sizes by 4 or 5 students will help a 50% graduation rate. Does anyone think that giving bad teachers a raise will suddenly enlighten them? Do you really think "eliminating" testing in order to identify bad teachers and bad curricula is the answer to better education? I think not, Mr. Obama! I think your more interested in helping the welfare of the Teacher's Unions in this country and "not" the general welfare of the students!

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