America’s Real Trillion Dollar Crisis


While the media and the American people have been consumed by the political folly that has been the potential debt ceiling crisis, millions of kids around our country are preparing to head into another year which will continue to worsen America’s real trillion dollar problem, the achievement gap. 

The debt ceiling crisis is a problem of political making, and with an ultimate political resolution. But the achievement gap has real impact on our gross domestic product (GDP). 

Two years ago, McKinsey Inc. produced a report which concluded that the United States achievement gap along racial and socioeconomic lines is “the economic equivalent to a permanent national recession.” According to the report, America could see increases in GDP of $1.3 to $2.3 trillion by closing the gap between itself and other higher performing nations, see increases of $310 to $525 billion by closing the gap between minority students and their white counterparts, see increases of $400 to $670 billion by closing the gap between low-income students and their wealthier peers, and see increases of $425 to $700 billion by closing the gap between lower performing states and their higher performing peers. There is a lot of overlap in these subgroups, but the point that our country is losing money because of the discrepancies in our educational system is evident.

At a time when the United States is trying to edge its way out of the second most disastrous recession since the Great Depression, we cannot talk about improving our economy without talking about closing the achievement gap. The McKinsey report based its estimates on the difference between the projected earnings/contribution to GDP of the disadvantaged groups in their present condition versus an increased level of productivity generated by a better education, a higher paying job, and thus higher contribution to GDP.

While we may disagree with the exact formula or true numerical ideology to quantify the achievement gap, we should all be able to agree that now more than ever, the United States cannot continue to throw away trillions of dollars because we will not solve our education crisis. 

The report closes on an optimistic note reiterating that this is not a lost cause and that this is a solvable problem. While the report points to various states and school systems that have demonstrated significant progress in closing the gap over the last decade, we only need look to various successful classrooms and schools in our own communities which prove this same point.

The achievement gap is not just a moral problem which should prey on the minds of our national conscious, but it is also an economic catastrophe that we refuse to recognize as such or resolve. So, while politicians and pundits spend their time debating debt and deficit, school bells all around our country are ringing in a new year, which because our country has failed to act, will be another year of trillion dollar losses for our national GDP.

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