by Haya Luftig
Education is one of the most important determinants of lifetime earnings, social mobility, and health outcomes. Yet our nation’s public schools are chronically underfunded and under performing, especially within low-income and rural communities. In society that prides itself on being the “land of opportunity,” poverty should not be the deciding factor in a child’s prospects for the future. Much of the current policy debate centers around the exploding cost of higher education, but the problems that afflict our education system begin far earlier in a child’s life, starting with the inaccessibility of affordable, high-quality preschools. Increasing the availability and affordability of early childhood education is one of the surest ways to close the achievement gap.
In addition, support for public higher education has been eroding for decades, falling precipitously since 2008. To offset the decline in public financing, public universities are turning to tuition and fee hikes, forcing students to take on loans that will take decades to repay. In fact, student loan debt now approaches $1 trillion. Combined with stagnating wages, soaring student loan debt is crippling young Americans, restricting their career options and life choices for years to come—from marriage and children to retirement.
How would you strengthen our public education system? What role should the government play in addressing the lack of affordable public higher education and subsequent rising student debt?