Friday, August 3, 2012

Education and the Economy


Acknowledging the Link between Education and the Economy
With the rise of the economic crisis and growing public concern regarding the U.S. health care system, the issue of education has often taken a back seat in American politics. However, recent events have shown that this important issue is slowly making its way to the foreground once again, with both presidential candidates publicly addressing the issue. This new focus on education indicates that the candidates are attempting to address voter concerns on this issue, which polls have shown to be somewhat significant when compared with other issues.
Analyzing the Numbers
The New York Times teamed up with CBS in April of this year to poll the American people about what political issues they were most concerned about with the presidential election right around the corner. The results revealed that education was cited as the biggest problem facing the country, right behind the economy, health care, and the national debt. A poll in February of this year was consistent with these results--revealing that the public most wanted to hear presidential candidates address issues surrounding education, but still behind the three priority issues of the economy, health care, and the national deficit.
Although it's clear that the public highly values the importance of education, only 4 percent of respondents identified education as an issue of primary concern, while almost 50 percent named the economy as the single biggest problem in the country today. It's true that each of these issues plays a key role in the function of the country as a whole; however, perhaps more of an emphasis would be placed on education if it were widely understood how interrelated this issue is with the state of the economy.
Despite the minimal public focus on the importance of education, the growing emphasis on an online learning environment has made education more accessible for a larger portion of the population. As a result, a larger portion of the population can take advantage of higher education by earning a degree through Internet-based institutions.
Education as the Foundation of a Functional Economy
Education and the economy are often divided in politics as two distinct issues, when in reality the former often predicts the behavior of the latter. In fact, school choice advocate Michelle Rhee has explicitly pointed out how the two affect one another. In an article by Ginger Gibson of Politico, she emphasizes the relationship between the two by stating "I think [the candidates] need to really start to make the connection for the American public between what happens in the public education system and the long-term viability of this country."
George P. Schultz and Eric A. Hanushek of the Wall Street Journal seconded this notion in a recent article regarding the importance of education reform on both a K-12 and college level. The journalists argued "An improved education system would lead to a dramatically different future for the U.S., because educational outcomes strongly affect economic growth and the distribution of income." This statement falls in line with recent studies, which have shown that countries with higher math and science skills tend to experience greater economic growth than those with less skilled populations.
Just how dramatic of an effect would educational improvements have on the U.S. economy? According to the same article, the GDP would quickly skyrocket over the next 80 years, which would deliver an annual income boost of 20 percent for each worker in the U.S. over his or her career. As a result of this increase, the U.S. deficit could effortlessly be eliminated. With a greater focus on education reform, the presidential candidates can essentially kill two birds with one stone.
About the author: Matt Herndon lives in Indianapolis with his wife and children. He has completed his graduate work in Upper East Tennessee where he studied communication and leadership development.

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