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Education reform

Anyway who is geneuinely worried about inequality, poverty, equality of opportunity and economic growth has to focus on two primary issues: Healthcare and education. For too long we've talked about both and done nothing. Hopefully that will change. Certainly, the Obama Administration is making strides buidling a coalition for unversial health care.

Education is even more important when it comes to inequality and poverty. The nation's primary and secondary school system is desperately in need of an overhaul. It won't be easy. But so what. For too long the status quo has existed, short-changing a generation of young people. Parents need much more choice and power when it comes to their children's education, no matter what their income. Teachers need to be paid more. Classes should go year round. Incompetent teachers should be fired. The teacher's unions should embrace radical reform or disappear.

Clive Crook of the Financial Times has a nice piece laying out the case for reform. He uses a recent study by consultants from McKinsey:

Drawing on work by Stanford's Eric Hanushek, the McKinsey team estimates the economic consequences of this educational deficit. If the US had raised its educational performance between 1983 and 1998 to that of countries such as South Korea and Finland, its output last year would have been $1,300bn- $2,300bn (€970bn-€1,716bn, £862bn-£1,525bn) higher - a gain of about 9 to 16 per cent of gross domestic product. In other words, the education deficit imposes the equivalent of a permanent depression on the US.

We should have had dramatic reform long before this:

At a meeting in Washington to launch the McKinsey report, Al Sharpton, a black community leader and all-round stirrer of controversy, was on the platform alongside more orthodox education reformers and administration officials. He called school reform the civil-rights challenge of our time. The enemy of opportunity for blacks in the US was once Jim Crow, he said; today, in a slap at the educational establishment, it was "Professor James Crow". He is right, and the country must hope the president agrees.

About the author

Chris Farrell is the economics editor of Marketplace Money.

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