Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Importance of Education ... Considering The Example of Chicago's Misplaced Priorities

Lost in the ongong saga of the Chicago teachers strike is the importance of children getting a solid education, if not as much education as possible.

Education shouldn't be about teachers, teachers unions, court proceedings and negotiating teams.

But even though the media, teachers union leadership, city officials, Democratic Party leaders and others are focused on the strike, let's see what's in store for the students and parents. My guess is that they won't be mentioned much at the union meeting today, and addressing their real educational needs in any new and meaningful way won't even be considered by the union's House of Delegates.

So how important is education? College, Still Worth It has two simple charts that tell the story well:

"Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone at the Hamilton Project have put together a beautiful chart illustrating once again why college is worth it, despite the current fad of claiming otherwise.

It shows the share of people at each income level who had various levels of educational attainment:

Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone, the Hamilton Project.
As you can see, the more income you earn, the more likely you are to have gone to college.

Of the Americans who earn over $150,000, 82 percent had a bachelor’s degree. Just 6.5 percent had no more than a high school diploma. And while there are lots of stories about broke college grads, people with higher education are much less likely to have low incomes than those without degrees.

Sure, you say, but people graduate from college with a lot of debt, which must surely wipe out their higher earnings!

Even factoring in the debt, though, college is still a great investment. Here’s another chart worth a million words, also from Mr. Looney and Mr. Greenstone, that shows the return on investment for going back to school compared to investing that same tuition money in the stock market, long-term Treasury bills, housing, corporate bonds or gold:

Adam Looney and Michael Greenstone, the Hamilton Project. Asset returns are geometric averages since 1950. Sources: Authors' calculations of internal rate of return, values adjusted for inflation using C.P.I.-U; March Current Population Survey 2007-2010 averages; National Mining Association; National Center for Education Statistics; Robert Shiller online data; Long Term Treasury Bills have 10-year maturities after 1953; Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
Nothing guarantees financial success, of course. But at the very least, postsecondary education opens the door to higher-paying jobs that are not available to people with fewer skills.

Summing Up

More than 50% of Chicago students don't graduate from high school.

Only ~6% graduate from college.

Why don't Chicago's educational elites focus on these statitistics instead of the non-student achievement related issues they're debating?

And when they say they need more money, why don't they have to explain what they've done with all the taxpayer money they've been spending over the years?

And when they steal the line from the Democratic Party and say how much worse things would be if not for what they've done, why don't we ignore them and try something new?

We all know the definition of insanity --- trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

After all, what's the downside to a new approach centered on the kids? I can't see any.

Thanks. Bob.

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