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Budget Bullets: Education

Smart Investments in Education are Needed for Economic Growth and Competitiveness

SOURCE: AP/Greg Wahl-Stephens

Teacher Margarita Hernandez leads a group of preschoolers with an outdoor art project at a Head Start program in Hillsboro, Oregon. We receive $13 in social benefits for every $1 invested in early childhood education and development, studies show.

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The strength of the American economy depends on a well-educated workforce. And yet the United States struggles with persistent achievement gaps facing minority and low-income students. Smart and efficient federal investments in education will improve student achievement and put our economy on the path to sustained and robust growth. Here’s how:

Don’t spend scarce federal money where it’s not needed

  • Federal education funds should go to students with extra needs, including low-income students, students with disabilities, and English language learners.
  • That money should be used to close vast disparities in educational achievement between low-income and minority students, and their more affluent peers.
  • We should use federal taxpayer dollars to encourage states to direct more money to school districts with many low-income students.

Education funding should be efficient and effective, emphasizing returns on investment

  • We should require districts to report real expenditures at the school level, rigorously evaluate state and local results on that spending—and make future funding decisions accordingly.
  • Some ineffective or outdated federal programs were already eliminated in the 2011 budget, and President Obama is right to want to consolidate overlapping programs.
  • We should explore innovative funding strategies that reward performance, such as pay-for-success contracts or social impact bonds.

Investing in education now will pay off in the future, many times over

  • Our economy would be as much as $2 trillion bigger if we had closed the international achievement gap between the United States and higher-performing countries.
  • Consider: If 50 percent of 2008 high school dropouts in the largest metro areas had graduated, they would earn a combined $4 billion more every year.
  • We receive $13 in social benefits for every $1 invested in early childhood education and development, studies show.

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Diana Epstein is a Senior Education Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress.

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This is part of a regular column: Budget Bullets

For more from the same column, click here