Top 5 Reasons Why Public Schools Are Failing Our Children

Aug 23, 2007

Force-feeding children a public education hasn't accomplished anything. American students can't keep up with the students in other countries, and the average U.S. fourth grader doesn't even have the most basic proficiency in common school subjects. How can the situation be fixed? By establishing what the problem is, of course. To start, here are the top 5 reasons why public schools are failing.

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Unsettling Education Statistics

  • Students are not faring well on national assessments. The most recent NAEP assessments indicate that less than one third of U.S. fourth graders are proficient in reading, mathematics, science, and American History.
  • More than half of low income students cannot even demonstrate basic knowledge of science, reading, and history.
  • U.S. eighth graders ranked 19th out of 38 countries on mathematic assessments and 18th in science.
  • U.S. twelfth graders ranked 18th out of 21 countries in combined mathematics and science assessments.

Source: The Heritage Foundation

What's Wrong with Public Schools?

People typically assume that what is wrong with the public education system is a lack of funding, but this is not necessarily the case. There are cracks in the foundation that the system is built on, and until these issues are addressed, no amount of funding will fix the problem:

No Accountability

The public education system is very rarely held accountable for the undereducated students it churns out. Schools have the ability to flat out ignore parents and anyone else they do not receive funding from. And if a school is rifled with bad teachers, what happens? Absolutely nothing. The teachers keep their job and the public school stays in business. Nobody wastes time on the concept of customer satisfaction. After all, the customers are merely uneducated kids who won't realize they are getting a raw deal until they enter college or the workforce and find that they can't keep up. Since 1960, the amount spent per pupil has more than tripled after dollars have been adjusted for inflation, yet the education our children are subjected to is not three times better. Why isn't the system being held accountable?

Wasted Funds

Despite higher-than-average per-pupil expenditures, public educated students in the U.S. are seriously lagging behind public-educated students in other countries. According to the Department of Education, public schools receive an average of $9,969 per pupil-twice the average amount spent per student at private and charter schools. Some areas, like the District of Columbia, spend in excess of $12,000 per public educated pupil. Where is the money going? Does anybody know-or perhaps more importantly-does anybody care? Those who run schools have no personal risk involvement and no incentive to cut costs or increase revenues. In fact, when a school does poorly or spends all of its money, more often than not that school receives even more funding. Without a dose of public outrage, the funds are almost guaranteed to be wasted.

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Political Agendas

Public schools are not required to answer to parents, but they do need to heed the words of politicians and school boards-all of whom have their own political agendas. It would not be an exaggeration to say that these agendas are weakening the entire system. Schools and teachers are frequently forced to deal with supposedly brilliant education plans thought up by state judiciaries, legislatures, and bureaucracies. The taxpayers are then expected to flip the bill to put the plans into motion. For this reason alone, a separation of school and state may be beneficial. By shutting out the interfering politicians and giving the power to the parents and teachers, true accountability may actually come about.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

There is no one size fits all prescription for education, yet that is exactly what most students receive in a public school. Gifted students often take the same classes as students who need extra help. In rural areas, there are very rarely AP courses or other academic options that will allow students to excel. Good teachers aren't given a chance to spread their wings because they are forced to follow the plans that have been laid out before them. And in the end, it is the children and our society that suffers from the one size fits all teaching style.


The No Child Left Behind Act was created to 'fix' our public schools, but in fact, has done more to damage the system than correct it. Under this law, extreme emphasis is placed on test scores and punitive action. What's worse perhaps is that school districts have been forced to train students for NCLB tests versus offering them the education they deserve. And while the House Education Committee refers to the act as 'unfair', and there is virtually no evidence that NCLB has done anything positive since its inception, the law is up for renewal this fall. Chances are more funding-money that could be used to actually improve the system-will be thrown at the law in a last ditch effort to make it work. But, as history has taught us (or should have taught us), laws should be based on logic versus the amount of funding that can be rustled up.

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