WRITTEN BY ERICA ABBOTT
Investing in education is one of the best ways to reduce inequality. The investment must begin in early childhood education and continue as children travel through the educational system.
“I think if we think about what the American dream is—that you can be anything that you want to be if you’re willing to work hard for it—and we typically start that dream off in education,” Cheryl Logan, the chief academic supports officer for the School District of Philadelphia, said.
Investments and reforms also need to be made in the K-12 public education system, including the redesign of No Child Left Behind, transforming high schools and empowering students through investments in the classroom, according to The White House.
“Schools can fail children when they’re not preparing them for the workforce, for college, for things beyond; when they’re not instilling in them the love of learning and desire for success but it’s hard for me to say that a failing school is the problem,” Vontrese Deeds Pamphile, a doctoral student in management and organizations and sociology at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, said.
Education, from her point of view, is not the be-all and end-all of issues related to inequality. “I think that poverty is the problem and the school is kind of a consequence of that,” she added.
According to the Brookings Institute, policies need to be centered around increasing public investment in preschool and postsecondary education, which are highly underfunded, educating the whole, as well as “closing resource gaps to reduce education gaps.”
Higher education can also serve as a stepping stone to achieving the American dream, but with high tuition costs and crushing debt from student loans, inequality can become even more pervasive. College needs to be made more affordable in order to open up the access to larger groups of people, rather than serving as a divide.
Susan Dynarski, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, said that college can improve people’s lives but at the end of the day, it’s a gamble. “It’s a bet and some people won’t win the bet,” she said.
She has proposed the idea of an income-based repayment plan that would allow for people who roll the dice, but end up losing the bet, to essentially not pay back the loans. But if people succeed in their endeavor, they do pay them back.
In addition to reducing costs, The White House’s initiatives for higher education include helping the middle class afford this level of education, strengthening community colleges and creating tools to improve transparency and accountability.
Reforms are crucial in improving education so that it may better serve everyone on their journey towards achieving the American dream.