One of the few benefits of recession is that it begs us to question the policies that have led us to such a situation. Much has been said about economic decisions, lax regulation, and corporate greed but there has been less discussion about the societal structure which has fomented such economic turmoil. At the heart of our society is a sytem which fails to adequately prepare vast numbers of children to succeed in the Information Age.
A new study by the consulting firm McKinsey entitled “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools” (available at www.mckinsey.com) estimates that if we had closed the racial achievement gap and black and Latino student performance had caught up with that of white students by 1998, U.S. GDP last year would have been between $310 and $525 billion higher. If the gap between low-income students and the rest had been narrowed, U.S. GDP in 2008 would have been $400 to $670 billion higher.
Two educational bills were re-introduced to Congress last month — The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and The Educational Opportunity and Equity Commission Act (see News p.10) — which deserve the support of our representatives.
Every year, American high schools grant diplomas to 65,000 immigrant students who were brought to this country at a young age. Many of these youth have attended U.S. schools for most of their lives, but their immigration status bars them from opportunities that make a college education affordable, including in-state tuition rates, loans and grants, most private scholarships, and the ability to work legally. Despite their long-term residence in the U.S., these students are unable to further their educational accomplishments or fully contribute to the only country they know and call home.
Under the provisions of the DREAM Act, undocumented young people could be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for a mandatory two year commitment in higher education or the military. Undocumented young people must also demonstrate good moral character to be eligible for and stay in conditional residency. At the end of the long process, the young person can have the chance to become an American citizen.