From preschool through
career changes for a life time of work
our education system must respond
to our changing world so that
we can be secure and regain
our place of leadership in the world.

Some claim American’s education is the best in the world. Yet many reports tell us that our education system is not even ranked among the top ten educational systems in the world. America ranks 14th out of 40.

If you follow the money, you learn something interesting: Feb 25 Washington Post Headline says it: 23 Billion racial funding gap for schools. Local taxes keep mostly white districts wealthier. There are funding gaps like that all over our country. It does not matter what issue you are exploring, sooner or later you run in to inequality and race.

The funding gap shows up in the public versus charter school debate. This debate is in the news in Arizona. (  Similar stories can be found in other states.

When all funds — local, state and federal — were counted, district schools received on average $9,474 per student. Charter schools, meanwhile, received $8,523 per student. But it’s more complicated than just those numbers.

The Legislature’s additional per-student funding for charter schools has given them a disproportionate share of state education dollars, state records show. About 1.1 million Arizona kids attend state-funded district and charter schools. Charter schools in 2016-17 taught 16 percent of those Arizona students — 179,669 — while receiving 27 percent of state education dollars. Twenty years ago, charter schools taught 2 percent of students and received 3.2 percent of state education dollars.

Much of this disparity can be traced to the Great Recession, when lawmakers cut funding for capital expenses, textbooks and buses for traditional public schools, but gave annual cost-of-living adjustments to charter operators, said Anabel Aportela, research director for the Arizona School Boards Association.
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Charter Schools Aren’t All the Same. Data shows charter schools vary dramatically in how many low-income students they serve. Opinion writer, Nat Malkus writes:

“A key factor in these battles is the lack of consensus over what charter schools do and what students they serve. Proponents often portray charters as mission driven to serve disadvantaged students who have been failed by traditional public schools. Opponents cast charters in a very different mold, as unaccountable privatizers that seek out more advantaged students and discourage disadvantaged students from enrolling or remaining enrolled.”

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Besides the funding gap and who best serves disadvantaged students, there are other issues: classroom size, poverty, family factors, technology, bullying, student attitudes and behaviors, no child left behind, parent Involvement early childhood education and life-long learning.

How is a child set up to have a long and productive life?

The evidence is growing that early education empowers success throughout life. How people work is reflected in the educational systems that are developed. When agriculture was the primary way families supported themselves, one room school houses dotted the countryside. As the industrial revolution continued manufacturing became the primary source of family income, schools became education factories. Now work is being transformed by what some call the digital revolution. It appears that this revolution will disrupt the way many Americans work, including educators. This leaves us with the question how our education systems will respond to changes in the world of work.

This question requires civic participation at the local, state and federal level.