December 1, 2016
WASHINGTON—The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) today led a panel discussion at the 2016 NewDEAL Leaders Conference on strategies to ensure that all Americans have the education and skills to succeed in the rapidly changing 21st Century global economy. The panel was moderated by PPI President Will Marshall and featured panelists Harry Holzer, Professor of Public Policy at the McCourt School at Georgetown University, and Bridget Gainer, NewDEAL Leader Cook County Commissioner (Ill.).
Marshall discussed PPI’s Reinventing America’s Schools Project headed by Senior Fellow David Osborne—focusing on how policymakers can innovate and reinvest in education and the importance of reimagining public schools for the knowledge economy, with an emphasis on why reimagined charter schools can and must lead the way.
“The longer students stay at charters, the larger the benefit. By the time a student spends four or more years enrolled in an urban charter school, we can expect their annual academic growth to be 108 days greater in math and 72 days greater in reading per year than their peers in traditional public schools,” said Will Marshall, highlighting the work of David Osborne at PPI. “Since traditional school years last about 180 days, this is equivalent of an extra half-year of learning, every year.”
As Osborne has noted, rising inequality was a major underlying issue in the 2016 Presidential Campaign, yet the candidates avoided the subject of K-12 education and its impact on closing the inequality gap. The gap in standardized test scores between affluent students and the poor has grown at least 49% since the 1960s. The gap in college competition between those whose families make $109K a year or more and those making $34K a year or less has grown to 77%. As education levels largely dictate income levels, the education gap widening and education levels mattering more in the job market have created a vicious cycle. Stanford Professor Sean Reardon says, “As the children of the rich do better in school, and those who do better in school are more likely to become rich. We risk producing an even more unequal and economically polarized society.” Charter schools have started to close these gaps, according to Osborne’s research.
Holzer spoke on the need for new and meaningful postsecondary education or training for working class Americans to find jobs that pay enough to sustain a middle-class life and stressed the role of community colleges—expanding on ideas proposed in his report for PPI, Creating New Pathways into Middle Class Jobs. Gainer spoke about the promising new approaches to apprenticeships that she has been working on in Chicago.