“The real scourge of the U.S. education system — and its greatest competitive weakness — is the deep and growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups that begins early and lasts through a student’s academic career,” wrote Rebecca Strauss, associate director for CFR’s Renewing America publications.
“And while America does spend plenty on education, it funnels a disproportionate share into educating wealthier students, worsening that gap,” she said.
According to the report, the United States has slipped 10 spots in both high school and college graduation rates in the past three decades. The gap is in part due to the majority of developed countries investing more resources per pupil in lower-income school districts than in higher-income ones.
“Human capital is perhaps the single most important long-term driver of an economy,” Ms. Strauss writes. “Smarter workers are more productive and innovative. It is an economist’s rule that an increase of one year in a country’s average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long-term economic growth. Most of the value added in the modern global economy is now knowledge based.”
Edward Alden, CFR senior fellow and Renewing America director, wrote in a blog post that “the failure of federal education policy has been greatest in its core mission of reducing disparities in public education.”
The CFR reports that although the Obama administration “has worked to reform and improve federal programs that serve low-income students, some of the biggest changes in federal funding priorities favor wealthy students who need the least help.”