In his State of the Union Address, President Obama addressed improving the educational standards for American students from preschool to higher education. Analyzing the President’s actions during his first term illustrates that the Obama administration’s main belief is that the federal government needs to get involved in the education of all American students. So it should not come as a surprise that the federal government wants to intervene in our students’ education at the earliest age possible, which has resulted in President Obama revealing during the State of the Union his goal for universal preschool education. The proposal is sound in theory, but the President’s administration has shown a failure to effectively implement previous educational initiatives. So why is this one going to be any different?
The new preschool plan calls for another federal-state partnership that would allocate preschool funds to states based on the number of low and moderate-income four-year olds. With some states strapped for cash, under the new proposal struggling states will be forced to put up funds that match those handed out by the federal government. To even access the federal money, states would have to meet certain conditions and show that their early learning schools meet high quality standards, which of course are set by the federal government. Some standards would force states and local districts to agree on hiring well-trained teachers (who are paid comparable to K-12 teachers), agree to low teacher-student ratios, and agree to comprehensive health services for children.
The president’s future educational strategy after the State of the Union address appears to be looking towards the education of future students, mainly preschool students. He wants, and will force states, to make investments that will not produce meaningful yields for decades, when there are just as urgent educational matters affecting American students at all levels. With all the major educational gaps and flaws throughout elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions across this nation, the president is foolish in believing that our current educational system is headed in the right direction.
In 2010, the Program for International Student Assessment released a study on the student achievement in 34 industrialized nations. Of those 34 countries, the United States ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. How can President Obama call America a global leader when our students are entering the global market at a severe disadvantage?
A look at the data collected by the College Board shows how average scores on the reading/verbal and mathematics portions of the SAT have been steadily declining. The SAT average reading/verbal score in 2011 of 497, is the lowest average score in the past ten years. This fact is very important as it presents the argument that American student are struggling in school and urgent reform needs to occur to see a drastic improvement in these numbers.
Lastly, a look at the price of college tuition shows a constant increase throughout the last decade making it tougher for students to attend a higher education institution and forcing those who do, to collect massive amounts of debt. Furthermore, the skyrocketing cost of higher education is in contrast to the average household income, which has been declining. According to the Census Bureau, annual household income fell in 2011 for the fourth straight year to an inflation-adjusted $50,054. This results in families not being able to help their children pay for their education, placing more of the debt burden on recently graduated students who are struggling to find a place of employment.
The key to building any successful structure is to lay a strong and solid foundation, which is what the president wants to do as illustrated by his universal preschool proposal. However, the current educational system has shown that it is not adequately instructing our students in areas like STEM education. Also, our current higher educational system makes it hard for low-income academically successful students to attend college without owing the government hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid student loans. Without the federal government investing in the education of our secondary and post-secondary students, current educational institutions will remain flawed and continue to produce students who are not prepared for the professional world. Furthermore, the upcoming generation of preschool students educated under President Obama’s newly proposed universal preschool education would continue to fall prey to the current inadequacy of America’s educational system.