Republicans Debate How Much To Cut Education While China And India Invest More

Our guest blogger is Kate Pennington, an education policy analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Republicans have been internally debating just how much to cut federal spending on education, but their platform unveiled this week at their convention in Tampa Bay does little to clarify their vision beyond referencing that no new investments will be made. While the Romney campaign works out the details of the education funding conundrum (or simply figures out the PR spin), Tea Party conservatives are loudly voicing their opinions to end federal spending on education entirely.

With the GOP convention taking place down the street, conservative talk show shock jock, Neal Boortz, remarked that the U.S. does not have public schools but rather, “government schools”. “It is 100 years of government education,” Boortz commented, “that led us to the point that a man like Barack Obama could be sworn in as President of the United States.” Other speakers at the rally, including Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Michele Bachmann, did not denounce Boortz for his comments or take a stand for U.S. public education.

The Republican party has clearly taken an ideological turn regarding the federal role in education over the past decade. After all, it was George W. Bush who championed No Child Left Behind and increased education spending to secure its passage in 2002. This change is particularly detrimental when investment in education seems to be the ticket to success for several other countries.

A new report shows that other nations like China and India have out-invested the U.S. in their education systems as strategies to become more competitive internationally. While U.S. 15-year-old students rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, governments in China and India have expanded to make major investments in early childhood learning, expanded primary and secondary school public education systems, and post-secondary degree programs that produce career-ready workers.

China has gone from spending less than $2 billion on social investments (including education) to $117 billion in 2006, leading the country to become the world’s largest provider of higher education by 2010. By 2030, it will have 200 million college graduates, meaning that there will be more Chinese college grads than total U.S. workers. India has similarly grown its investment in public education from $11 billion a year in the late 1980s to $44 billion in 2008. In 1947, more than 80 percent of Indians were illiterate. Today, the number has plummeted to 25 percent.

So while the Republican Party argues amongst itself about the role of government in education, other nations have agreed on strategies, invested in them, and are putting them into practice. It’s time for Republicans to stop embracing the far right wing in their party and do what’s right for students and the nation.