Bipartisan Concern Over Faltering U.S. Schools

Posted September 2, 2008 at 4:58pm

A bipartisan panel, which included Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and the Rev. Al Sharpton, warned today that the nation’s schools are faltering, and immediate steps must be taken to make sure U.S. students do not fall behind.

“We know what we need to do,” Pawlenty said during a panel discussion at the GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn. “We have hundreds of groups around the country conducting studies and research. … The problems have been diagnosed. Now we need to get onto the solutions.”

“Children must be the priority,” said Sharpton, a civil rights activist. “We can go to our various corners in the political arena or we can stop arguing and sprinkling adjectives and realize that there is something not working, and we can have an honest discussion about how to make things fair for all of our children.”

According to the Department of Education, 24 countries outscore U.S. schools in math and science. Moreover, statistics show 70 percent of U.S. eighth-graders can’t read at their grade level. Additionally the U.S. is the only country to show no increase in the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in recent years.

Pawlenty said one of the reasons for the alarming statics is that the United States has become focused on celebrities instead of encouraging children to study, especially in math and the sciences.

Also participating in the panel discussion were: Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.); and former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat.