America’s turbulent education system

Although the United States’ educational system is alive and well, the financial states of its teachers and students has decreased dramatically in the past few decades. Teachers in 2018 are running for office at higher rates than before in an attempt to modify and rehabilitate the current system.

As tuition prices across the country continue to rise, the U.S. continues to boast increasing levels of educational attainment. The country hit its highest rate of high school completion in 2017 with 90 percent of adults over the age of 25 reported possessing a high school diploma.

Since 2000, the U.S. has seen a dramatic increase of students from minority groups obtaining high school diplomas. Hispanic groups have increased from a 57 percent to a 71 percent attainment rate since 2000, while Black communities have seen a rise from 78 percent to 87 percent in the same frame of time.

The rise in educational attainment in the U.S. does not stop at high school education. While just barely a quarter of adults over the age of 25 had a Bachelor’s degree in 2000, now one-in-three adults over the age of 25 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The number of doctoral and masters students has also increased, both doubling since 2000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Throughout 2018, teachers have protested for higher wages, better insurance and pension reform. Despite some of the protests failing to sway government officials, many teachers around the U.S. are running for office in an attempt to make legislative change.

Of all the Democratic candidates who ran for office during the 2018 midterm elections, almost one-in-five are current or former teachers compared to less than one-in-ten for professors running as Republicans.

Overall, one in four candidates in both parties are educators this election.

As salaries remain stagnant for teachers, their cost of living continues to rise. In 80 percent of analyzed districts by the National Council on Teacher Quality, teachers with a master’s degree and five years of experience cannot comfortably afford a mortgage. In addition, more than a quarter of the teachers are unable to afford even a one-bedroom apartment.

Another guiding reason for educator protests and political candidacy is President Trump’s appoint of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Former Assistant Secretary of Education under President George H.W. Bush, Diane Ravitch, said DeVos’ appointment may have been a blessing in disguise.

DeVos’ on Trump’s cabinet “was a wake-up call to everyone who was concerned about the future of public education,” she said. “I’m actually glad [Trump] chose her.”

DeVos’ proposals have shocked educators across the country. She suggested teachers be armed and has weakened student protections and LGBTQ civil protections in schools.

A main concern among current and prospective students is the rising cost of higher education and the accompanying student loan debt. Since 2003, the amount of outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. has more than quadrupled. In 2018, student loan debt has reached $1.5 trillion. Students in the college class of 2016 currently average at $37,172 in student loans.

For students defrauded by for-profit universities such as ITT and Corinthian Colleges, DeVos’ Department of Education was recently ordered by a federal judge to reinstate an Obama-era student loan forgiveness rule. Still, more than 100,000 students who attended defunct non-profit colleges are waiting for their claims to be processed.