Commission Recommends Drastic Changes to U.S. Public Education

A bipartisan commission comprised of former Cabinet secretaries and governors, federal and state education officials, and business and civic leaders has proposed a series of dramatic changes that would shake up American public education in an effort to make the nation more competitive globally, the Washington Post reports.

The New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce issued its recommendations — which include paying teachers significantly better salaries, authorizing school districts to pay companies to run schools, and enrolling many students in college after tenth grade — in a 170-page report on the future workforce, warning that unless improvements are made in the nation's public schools and colleges by 2021, a large number of jobs would be lost to countries like India and China, where workers are better educated and paid less than their U.S. counterparts. According to the commission, implementing the recommendations would cost about $60 billion and take fifteen years.

Funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Annie E. Casey, Bill & Melinda Gates, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations, Tough Choices or Tough Times is the result of a year-long assessment by the panel. Education experts expect the report to spur public debate in legislatures and school board chambers nationwide, much like the ground-breaking 1983 report A Nation at Risk.

"The United States has one of the highest costs of education but produces mediocre results," said Charles Knapp, chairman of the commission and the former president of the University of Georgia. "The recommendations are absolutely necessary if we want America to maintain its standard of living."

V. Dion Hayes. "Schools Report Urges Drastic Change, Higher Salaries." Washington Post 12/15/2006.