Friday, January 09, 2009

Trade-Off: Budget Deficit vs. Basic Education

by Daniel Bennett

Yesterday, I wrote a blog that summarized AASCU's new report, which outlines the top ten issues likely to affect public higher education across the states. Issue #7 states: Improve college-readiness among all high school students.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger apparently has yet to receive the memo on this. Faced with a huge budget deficit, he has proposed a number of drastic changes to close the $42 billion gap. One such measure is to reduce the compulsory school year by five days. This would give California one of the shortest school years in the country, which already lags behind the international average number of school days. According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003, the US average was 180 days, as compared to the international average of 193 days. Countries with the most days included Korea (225), Japan (223), China (221), Australia (196) and Russian (195).

Is there any wonder why the US trails the developed world in math and science scores, or why American college students increasingly must take remedial courses to make up for what they failed to learn in high school? There may be an intellectual gap, as Charles Murray would argue, but let's avoid giving ourselves an excuse for falling behind by having a short school year.

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