Inside Story America

America’s growing education gap

As a report calls for an overhaul of the US education system, we examine why social mobility is becoming unattainable.

Multiple research in the US has shown that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And now the Equity and Excellence report, commissioned by the US Congress, says the US education system is largely to blame.

“This is a question of priorities, much of what has made the US great in the last decade was our investment in our people, human capital in our education system and what we are seeing is an unravelling of that system …. we see a constant defunding of the education system in the US…  Instead of seeing the government push for education we see a push to privatise education. Education should mitigate the inequality at the starting gate and we should bring everyone to the starting line so everyone has an equal opportunity.”

– Sylvia Allegretto, a labour economist

The study says: “Ten million students in US’s poorest communities … are having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted by a system that consigns them to the lowest-performing teachers, the most run-down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities considerably lower than what we expect of other students.”
So what has become of the American dream? Despite growing up with economic hardships do you still have the opportunity for prosperity and financial success through hard work? 
It is a notion that President Barack Obama recently alluded to in his inaugural address: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

However, the report on education says that in no other developed country has the system stacked the odds against so many of its children.

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas is joined by guests: Sean Reardon, a professor of education and sociology and author of The Widening Income Achievement Gap; Mary Bruce, a senior education adviser for the public policy firm, Civic Enterprises; and Sylvia Allegretto, the co-chair for the Centre on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California.

“It’s a shocking state right now. We have one in four children in this country living in poverty, increasingly children lack housing, healthcare and basic food security in some cases in concentrated and segregated areas, and then we are spending less money in schools in the education of those who are the least able to get education outside of school. This builds up a kind of inequality that doesn’t exist in most of the industrialised nations around the world.”

– Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford university and one of the authors of the Equity and Excellence report