What is the Price of an Educated Child?

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What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

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Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.


Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

60 responses to “What is the Price of an Educated Child?

  1. You know what I think, Jenni! This is spot on. It is important to think about the global aspects of educating our kids and it underlines the importance of upgrading our system by being willing to “pay the piper.”

  2. I think it’s probably a combination of perhaps higher taxes but also governments not squandering our money. Education, Health and Housing always seem to be neglected. How do we put money into the things that are important and hold government accountable for spending?

    • Absolutely. It is not only about how much taxes we are paying, but how it is being spent. And your question holds the key – regardless of how much we pay, how do we make sure it goes to fund the things that are important to us? And not to more wars and killing? Thanks for the comment!

  3. Thanks Jenni. Friedman’s key point in his book – “That Used to be Us” is innovation is portable. If we don’t educate our kids well, we are hindering America’s future as the innovation will occur more elsewhere. I appreciate the shout out, as well.

  4. I have no problem with investing into the future but I would want transparency so we can really see it is going where they say it is

  5. The idea of comparing schools internationally instead of just locally is fantastic. Parents want the best education for their children no matter where they live. What if the better school is across the ocean? Personally I think the governments everywhere should pay more attention to education and healthcare and reassess how much money they budget for them. As for the higher and higher taxes: I live in Finland and I will always be willing to pay more taxes if it assures that we continue to have great free education, free healthcare and functional social security.

    • What a great perspective. I think people in the US are intrigued by the perspective of people in other countries who have faith that higher taxes will lead to better services, but I bet Finland is a good example that it can work. But there is so much distrust of the government here. And a real unwillingness to pay more to get more. I don’t really understand it myself, but that is a part of our culture -especially right now with some of the extreme factions of the Republican party. Thanks so much for the commennt!

  6. I don’t believe people are thinking logically when it comes to paying a little more in taxes to have the better schools, teachers,and etc to educate our kids. We must invest in our schools in order for our children to grow up educated properly, and not dummies. I found out the other day (to my horror) that there are many grown people who do not know how many justices sit on the supreme court. When this question was asked of them, all sorts of answers were given…5,7, 11, you name it. Too many of them were unable to come up with the number 9. And these were all high school graduates!

    • I completely agree. The distrust of our government may just lead to the decline of our nation. A heavy thought that just came to me, but I think it could turn out to be true.

    • There are a great many studies that all point to the failure of the school system. And there are two major obstacles standing in the way of improvement: (I) Denial, even by those closest to the issue, and (2) Selfishness on the part of those who would rather spend a few extra bucks on pull-tabs than spend it on improved teaching in the school. Those who continue to deny that increased spending would help greatly (though not completely) and a big part of the problem.

  7. My question is, would the schools really improve if taxes are raised? There is cogent proof out there that US school education has declined in spite of increased taxes over the years.
    That article is telling me that a “good education” is relative. But relative to what? What is our standard for knowledge?
    There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom being from our Creator, knowledge being the perception of fact or truth. Taking Wisdom out of the picture significantly lowers the standards of our knowledge (not to mention our morals) because truth and knowledge ultimately comes from the One Who made us.
    “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;” Proverbs 2:6
    The education of our children is priceless, if it is the right kind of education. From what I see, the price of taxes produces a sorely inadequate education.

    • That is a good question. And there is a difference betwen school learning and wisdom, that is for sure. So then I wonder if part of the question has to do with, once we have the appropriate amount of funding for schools, which I know for a fact in our state we do not,how do we influence the quality of the curriculum? I know a few of my teacher readers have discussed the challenges of low teacher pay, which can lead to highly skilled people choosing other more lucrative careers or people who enter the teacing profession being forced to choose a different path. But your point is well taken. This is not just about getting enough money into the schools, but I do think that has to be the first step. Thanks s much for reading and for your comment!

      • This is something I can definitely relate to having just moved on from teaching. One thing that absolutely needs to happen is for more skilled and appropriately compensated administration to be hired in our districts. The waste that goes on is incredible. Often terrific, ambitious teachers move into these roles without ever having worked in a for profit business environment. I came in as a career changer seeing where things could be improved, cut, and changed and that was not a popular stance.

        • Right. That is a huge piece of the puzzle as well. So, what do you think needs to happen to shift this culture? It sounds like you tried, but didn’t have a lot of support. Thanks for your comment!

          • I’m sure leaving, my choice, is not the answer. But sanity won! I think as people change careers and we have administrators that have also worked in the private sector it may improve but I think it first starts with a reality check. You can only do so much with a small amount of money even if teachers have all the passion in the world. We need to make the education of everyones child a priority. There is a cost to society of neglecting those that do not have a loud enough lobby.

  8. Dear Jenni,
    We had this issue in our small town. Our elementary school was FALLING apart. Not enough space, very old..all of that. I couldn’t believe the folks that opposed building a new school for our KIDS!
    We have it now, though…thanks to a lot of hard work (I am proud I helped)
    but I still shake my head in wonder!!!
    Great post, as ALWAYS♥
    Love, Lis

  9. The question should really be what is the price of an uneducated child? My feeling is that our priorities are all upside down, and that we should be investing more resources (tax dollars) to our greatest assets; our youth. We need to put public education through college, housing, universal health care at the very top of the list. Our public education institutions represent cutting edge technology of the early 20th century, i.e. Henry Ford’s assembly line. With the wealth of information available to us, we need to teach our children how to turn that information into knowledge, and how to apply that knowledge so that we ALL benefit!

    I’ll get off this soapbox now and give someone else a turn. Thanks for bringing it up! xoM

    • LOVE your soapbox! Really. In case you didn’t realize, I am a HUGE fan of soapboxes! 😉 I am so with you on this. And I think most Americans are with you on this. Why can’t we come together and make a change? Because of Citizens United? Because our politics have become so polarized? Because corporate interests are more influential than people’s interest? I don’t get it. Maybe if we frame it the way that Friedman is framing it as investing in our education is what is best for business and for a strong American economy, it will help. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response!

    • Great comment! You must be right, because I agree with you completely!

  10. Every story about government waste decreases votes for tax hikes. “well they can just use what they have better.” Then there are bait and switch schemes when they get us to vote for an education tax or lottery game to increase funding only to remove another source of funding to pay for something else. More money should go in and quality should be measured by more than test scores. The international comparison is great. Ballot initiatives for any tax increase takes a huge voter outreach effort to get it to pass. We can’t get a penny for roads but everyone complains about traffic and toll roads. If we all just stand on a corner and scream in frustration, do think anyone would notice?

  11. I believe that the most important thing that you could give anyone is an education. Money comes and goes but once you have your education, you have it for life. You can’t put a price tag on that.

  12. I think most people would be prepared top pay higher taxes if they perceived they received value for money. It’s the chronic wastage and seeming administrative ineptness that seem to make people baulk. During the GFC, our government gave funds for the “Education Revolution” in a bid to stimilate the economy by providing funds for school upgrade projects. There was political expendency to spend the money quickly – too quickly so this resulted in the construction of buildings that were pulled down a year or two later and the need for more funds to fix hasty infratsucture mistakes. Is it any wonder that taxpayers get cynical?

    • I think you are right. But it is such a shame that examples of waste are used as excuses not to invest in the system. It seems that there will always be examples of waste, but the answer doesn;t seem to me to be to make the whole system suffer. Thanks so much for your comment!

      • I think the curtain raiser is right as well. There is considerable waste in the public sector, no doubt. But your point trumps hers: we need to demand accountability while at the same time we are willing to pay more to help those in need — including our students.

  13. There are so many things I disliked about school and felt that it could have been done better, so I’m not sure if giving schools more money is the actual solution. I’m not sure what the answer is. Adequate funding is necessary, but I think to invoke change, dollars will have to be teamed with different attitudes and techniques.

    • Absolutely. I think you need both. I know in Colorado, the schools have been hit the hardest during the economic downturn and they simply do not have the funds to succeed. I am not sure how this looks in other states, but I think it is similar. There is actually a lawsuit going on here where the state is being sued for failing to adequatel fund the schools. But you are right, this is not just a matter of funding. We need to also look at ways to give teachers more flexibilty and to reduce class sizes. A lot to think about, but I think if we do not do something about this we will really harm the economic future of our country and the longterm success of our kids and grndkids. Thanks so much for the comment!

  14. I wish our government in South Africa would get their priorities right. We have many schools here which have received no books at all this year. The Education Minister refuses to accept responsibility, and is still in her post, because it’s politically expedient. 😦

    • That is a great different perspective, although I just spoke to a teacher last night here who shared that she had to spend a lot of her own money to buy things for her classes, so we have some of that here. But we live in the richest country in the world. We should do better for our kids. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective. Sounds like this frustration is felt all around the world. Thanks again!

  15. Amy

    Education also should be parents’ responsibility too. If parents believe education is vital to their children’s future, they should ask themselves if they would be willing to spend time to teach, guide, and mentor their own kids and to sacrifice their own desires and save money for their children’s education.

    • That is a good point, although the cost of higher education has become completely out of reach for many people as well. But I was looking at this more from the perspective of where our tax dollars are going. And more and more are going to things like defense spending and less an less is going to schools. Actually, in the economic downturn, Colorado has had to slash everything, including education spending. And there just is not enough tax revenue to cover all of the important costs. And we have a constitutional requirement that voters have to approve any tax increases. But no one is willing to talk about raising axes,so our schools continue to suffer. Thanks so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment!

  16. My daughter is 4 and in a Montessori pre-school classroom, her father and I plagued with what to do in a year…I agree we get what we pay for and wish it weren’t so that private school has become the place to go as our public schools fall by the wayside, in disrepair, program cuts (some cities have closed the libraries as well as no music or art programs)… education should holistic, not just spelling our reading but becoming a human being and part of society. So society as a whole is reaping what has been sown. I would love for my little girl to go to public school and I support funding not only the education system with my tax dollars, but the other areas you noted above. I just wish more felt the same way.

    • Me too! I can imagine that that is a difficult decision. We are lucky to live in a place with great public schools, but that is the exception, rather than the rule. Good luck with your decisions. Thank you so much for reading and for your comment!

  17. My biggest beef about taxes and education is that I think the administrators take too much of our tax dollars and not enough is actually invested in buying books and other crucial items needed to educate our children. They say, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Well, I don’t think we need so many people in charge of each school division in our city, so put their salaries into paying for more teachers, teaching assistants and materials.

    • Good point. I wonder what Mr. Hugh Curtler would have to say about your comment as someone who worked in the University System for so many years or Ms. Carr Party of Five or Mindful Stew who both worked in K-12 education. It seems to me that you are right, although at the same time, I want some pretty qualified people in leadership in schools. I am not sure how that works and would love to hear from the experts on this! Thanks for a thoughtful comment!!

      • Jenni,
        I tend to agree with mywithershins here: most of the schools I am familiar with are top heavy. They could get rid of half of the administrators and support staff — as long as the ones remaining, as you suggest, are efficient and capable. There is a great deal of money going to waste at the top. But the problem is that those at the top determine where the money will be spent! Catch 22!!

        • Thanks for weighing in and helping clarify, Hugh!! I thought you would agree, but your knowledge is much broader and deeper than mine on this topic, so I didn’t want to presume to know something I don’t. 🙂 Thanks so much to both of you for reading and staying engaged!! It means a lot!

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