The American public education system is in dire need of fixing and President Barack Obama thinks he has the solution. Earlier this week on the Today show, Obama put forth some suggestions to reform education in the U.S. He advocated extending the school year, getting rid of inefficient and underperforming teachers and emphasizing a more active parental role in a children’s education. Many of Obama’s ideas show promise and update an antiquated school system. But schools all over the country are already under immense budgetary strains. Obama needs to ensure that any suggested reforms include plans to receive federal funding.
On Monday, in response to a question from Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today, Obama highlighted weeding out inefficient teachers and holding parents accountable. The president also stressed the need for a longer school year. He noted that America is being surpassed in terms of educational standards by many other nations. Studies show that in higher-achieving nations — Japan, South Korea, Germany and New Zealand — students attend school more days a year. Obama acknowledged that lengthening the school year would be expensive, but stated that it would be “money well spent.”
A longer school year is a viable solution to many of the problems that schools encounter. Students would spend more time immersed in an academic environment, encouraging a better understanding of school and learning. For underprivileged students, this is especially important, as they don’t have the same access to summer learning programs. Shortening summer vacation will also increase students’ retention, meaning teachers will spend less time reviewing at the beginning of the year. And a longer year gives teachers more time to adequately cover all the necessary material. Teachers have more space to work in additional lessons and to stretch out material over a period of time, as opposed to cramming it in at the end of the term.
But this option, like any other, has its cons to counter its pros. Each year when the spring months roll around, students start burning out, eagerly awaiting vacation. Adding an extra month may double the stress, leading to discouraged and frustrated students. Moreover, summer is an important time for family vacations, athletics and social development. America prides itself on producing well-rounded individuals with people skills as well as intelligence and this shouldn’t be compromised.
But perhaps the biggest issue with this proposal is funding. In order for American students to be prepared to compete globally, America needs to reinvest in education. Many schools across the nation are already cutting a day out of the week in order to cut costs. With budgets already tight, asking schools to remain open for an extra month or so is a stretch. It is imperative that any proposed reform be backed up by sufficient federal funds. It is unfair to pass education cuts while at the same time ask schools to pay for more.
In the words of Obama, simply “throwing money at the problem won’t work.” This is true as major reforms are needed in the American public education system. But without money, there can be no reforms.