Press Release

OECD Report Shows That Investing in Education Has Helped Many Nations Meet Challenges of Global Recession

For Release: 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Contact:

Tom Lansworth
202/393-6351
tlanswor@aft.org

 

AFT's Weingarten: "Most other OECD nations reacted to the recession by investing more in education, while such expenditures actually fell in the United States."

WASHINGTON—Statement by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's "Education at a Glance-2013" report. The report, issued annually, analyzes and tracks trends in the education systems of the 34 OECD member nations as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.  

"This report, which highlights the crucial importance of education to counter the effects of the global recession on the employment prospects of young people, teaches us this key lesson: You get through economic crisis by investing in education. The nations that made that commitment saw that their young people were better prepared for the challenges of a changing economy. When people talk about other countries out-educating the United States, it needs to be remembered that those other nations are out-investing us in education as well.

"It is important for us to learn from the voluminous data assembled in this report. When we look beyond the surface numbers, the OECD 2013 report reveals several findings that should be part of our education policy debates in the United States. For example, the report shows:

  • Most other OECD nations reacted to the recession by investing more in education, while such expenditures actually fell in the United States. Spending on U.S. public projects, for the most part, did not go to education.
  • U.S. enrollment in early childhood education is well below averages across the OECD countries. This confirms the need to expand access to high-quality early learning through efforts such as President Obama's Preschool for All proposal. Research and our experience leave no doubt that early education sets our children on the path to success in school and career.
  • Teachers' salaries have gone up in nearly every OECD country—except the United States. And U.S. teacher pay is not competitive with compensation levels for other highly educated professionals.
  • As has been shown in previous OECD reports, U.S. teachers spend more time in the classroom than educators in nearly every other nation tracked in the report.

"The report illustrates the cost crisis in American higher education. It clearly shows that U.S. spending on K-12 education is in line with OECD averages. But the cost of higher education is well above other countries' expenditures. A college education in America is significantly more expensive and is becoming less affordable.

"A major portion of those excess costs is paid with private funds, including student loans. College debt is growing and is getting worse. Right now, U.S. college students and their families are facing a doubling of student loan interest rates if Congress does not act by July 1.

"The OECD data on U.S. higher education costs show that, even beyond fixing interest rates on student loans, Congress must overcome its inability to deal with long-range funding and financial aid issues if a college education is to remain accessible and affordable for most Americans."

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The AFT represents 1.6 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.