Issue #14: Demographic Shifts to Challenge Education
In about 20 years, the United States faces a sharp increase in the number of the very old and very young, the main beneficiaries of government social programs. On RedefinED this week, Dr. Matthew Ladner discusses this coming demographic shift and its implications.
“Broadly speaking however, economists have found dependency ratios to be predictive of economic growth,” he writes. “When ratios are high, you have a high percentage of people out of the work force and a relatively small percentage of people trying to cover the costs of their education, retirement and health care. Under such circumstances, economic growth tends to slow. Slower economic growth means fewer jobs materialize for those working-age people bearing the primary burden of maintaining the social welfare state through their taxes.”
On this week’s School Reform News podcast, Ladner said these fiscal and social challenges mean at least the next 20 years will be even more politically contentious than recent firefights over government finances. Youthful current and future taxpayers will be pit against elderly past taxpayers. It also means most school systems will have to start looking a lot like Utah’s, where the state’s relatively high number of children per family has long kept it the lowest education spender in the country, at approximately $6,000 per student. But states have to reduce education spending while increasing education quality, he notes, because future taxpayers will still need all the help they can get to find steady employment that can sustain government spending and themselves.
Washington DC’s vouchers program, for example, spends approximately a third what the local public system spends per student while boasting graduation rates 12 percent higher. No state can afford to “hold its nose” at such outcomes, Ladner says. Even so, lawmakers will have to expand school choice programs dramatically, and now, so they can play their part in lifting the unprecedented burden our future now holds.
IN THIS ISSUE:
- ESAs: Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio lawmakers express interest in “school choice 2.0”: Education savings accounts that allow parents to divide their kids’ education money among myriad options.
- LOUISIANA: Thirty U.S. Senators write the Obama administration to protest its lawsuit against vouchers that help poor kids escape failing schools. The administration also has filed a motion to keep parents from defending the program in court.
- TEACHER PAY: Why teachers will take a large pay cut to work in private schools: Working conditions are far better.
- ALABAMA: Yet another state makes yet another meaningless non-change to Common Core. This time, Alabama officials move to rescind a non-binding agreement expressing support for the initiative before it began.
- NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lawmakers are preparing a flurry of Common Core bills to release in the spring. The proposals include restrictions on data mining, delays of the standards and tests, and posting test questions publicly.
- MICHIGAN: The state Senate approves moving forward with Common Core. The senators passed the resolution on a voice vote, which means each lawmaker’s stance was not recorded. The resolution requires Michigan to accept competitive bids for tests to measure Common Core, rather than reflexively use national tests.
- ENGLISH LEARNERS: Common Core paves the way for a universal definition of English language learner. This is just one of the many far-reaching effects of the initiative.
- WRITING: Meet the man who reviews the best high school history papers in the world. Will Fitzhugh discusses The Concord Review, low expectations for students, and why businesses spend $3.1 billion each year teaching employees remedial writing.
- OREGON: A school district allows teachers to bear arms in school if they have a permit. “The current law in Oregon allows for anybody to concealed carry on school grounds,” said the St. Helens School Board chairman. “To exclude our staff seems like they’re being punished. They should have a right to protect themselves if they so choose.”
- NCLB: Researchers discover that No Child Left Behind led to a spike in ADHD prescriptions for kids. Schools reduced recess time and began demanding more, earlier.
- VIRGINIA: A teacher is convicted of embezzling $10,000 from her union, but her district says it continues to trust her and will let her keep her job.