November 7, 2016
Dear Future President,
This letter is being written within the walls of an American high school. It will receive feedback from high school students and teachers, and it will be submitted through a school computer. Schools are one of the most important components to raising American citizens - they educate the future generations that will inherit the country. Despite their importance to a flourishing country, why is it that 30% of college students drop out within their first year? Why is it that 71% of college graduates have debt averaging $25,000? Our school systems are in desperate need of change in order to support the upcoming generations of the United States. A raise of only 2% in the amount of federal taxes spent on education could allow these changes to see fruition.
The American school system throughout history has been ever-changing, but in recent decades, it’s screeched to a halt. While countries in the rest of the world, such as South Korea and Finland, are adapting to new learning styles and give more options, the US remains stagnant. Our global ranking is 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. In the long run, these numbers aren’t bad, but considering our position as 3rd in the global population ranking, we could do much better. According to a study done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in 2015, only 3% of our federal tax dollars goes to the education system (compiled to about 111 billion dollars a year). This percentage is miniscule when compared to the percentage of children and young adults in our population, which is over 60% according to the 2012 census (the population is likely still growing as of late due to the increasing birth rates). If the percentage of federal tax funds is raised only up to 5%, education will have 74 billion more dollars to spend on making necessary improvements to the United States education system.
One of the biggest current problems of the American school system is college tuition. The current averages in college tuition are $32,405 at private schools, $9,410 at public in-state schools, and $23,893 at public out-of-state schools. Averaged out, this is almost half of the average yearly income ($50,756) for a single adult. Over 2014-2015, college rates have inflated 3.7% at private schools and 2.9% in public. This was the gap in a single year, while the inflation of the decade before was only 5%. Somehow, American schools have managed to hit an all-time high for college tuition. With just a little more funding, these prices can go down dramatically, increasing not only the amount of people attending colleges, but the amount of students that actually graduate.
Another problem in the American school system is class size. In the US, the average class size is 21 students with 1 teacher per classroom. This number has remained fairly standard for many years, but they are rapidly rising with our population as schools don’t have enough money to expand or open new buildings for students. Ten years ago, my first grade class had 16 students. This year, the same teacher takes care of 20 students at once. In my town, there was a recent meeting to discuss the possible opening of another elementary school in order to accommodate the growing population, but it was decided that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to do so. Class quality is decreasing because there aren’t enough teachers or schools for the amount of students. Over time, they will get even bigger - the projected estimation for class size of that same first grade classroom in another decade is 27 students. With an increase in 2% of federal tax dollars to education, more schools can be opened and more teachers can be hired, increasing the quality of education for our future generations.
The last topic I’m going to focus on is standardized testing. As of late, standardized testing in schools has gone through the roof. More weight is being put on these tests in order to increase our global ranking in education, but they don’t contribute to a class experience - in fact, they lower the quality of it. Standardized testing takes up precious minutes of class to judge students on non-content related material. In addition, since they don’t contribute to grades, the vast majority of students don’t take them seriously. At least one standardized test at the beginning and end of the year is necessary to determine growth and global ranking, but at the moment, our school has a plethora of standardized tests and uses up our time working on tests that don’t contribute to our grade nor truly measure our ability. In Finland’s advanced education system, there is no district-wide test until sixth grade, while elementary schoolers in the US do standardized testing for about half a month in all during the school year, and yet we still rank below their education system.
The facts don’t lie. In order to support our future generations, more of our federal tax dollars need to be spent on our education system. The college tuition needs to be lowered to allow more students access to education without long term debt. Classes need to be smaller and more teachers need to be hired. We need to focus more on content than standardized testing. All of this can be achieved with a 2% redistribution of federal tax dollars, so why not give it a try? We are a country focused on the future: its improvement, its children, its workers, and its students. It’s our responsibility to repair the school systems and build a stronger base for the decades ahead.
Thank you for your consideration,