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Shields: Health Care Versus Education

06/09/10 5:55PM By Jeff Shields
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(HOST) Commentator Geoff Shields has been thinking about the cost of health care as compared to the cost of education.

(SHIELDS) John F. Kennedy once said "The course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education."

The balance recently has been coming down on the side of catastrophe and we need to provide the counter-balance with more emphasis on education.

Every day, it seems the news is full of school budgets and healthcare expenditures.

The school budget news is mostly about efforts from Montpelier to spend less on our schools - how to encourage consolidation - how to force local communities to vote twice on any school budget increase -how to spend less for early childhood education.  All these efforts focus on cutting expenditures not improving the quality of the education for Vermont's children.

The healthcare news is quite different.  It is full of ideas from Montpelier on how to spend more money on healthcare.  Proposals for a single payer model - proposals on expanding Medicaid - proposals on adding more community clinics - all extremely expensive projects.

Why so much government largess on healthcare and such stinginess on education?

Most healthcare expenditures are made at the end of life and the bulk of those expenditures help a small minority of people.
On the other hand, education expenditures enable all our kids to make contributions to society for many decades to come.  

Recent studies by the RAND Corporation demonstrate that early childhood education increases a child's success all through her years of school.  The RAND study found that the economic benefits of early childhood education surpass up to seventeen times the cost of that education.

The United States stands way down the list in terms of our children's test scores in math, reading and science - well behind Korea and Japan, as well as every country in Western Europe.

When we wonder why unemployment is so high and growth so low in the US as compared to China, we might look at the fact that China graduates three times the number of engineers we do.

We are concerned about falling incomes - well, it is worth noting that the median annual salary for those with a college degree is $55,656, 40% more than the $33,801 median salary for those with just a high school diploma.  

As a society we must focus our collective efforts on those issues and areas that will help our society the most.  If we want to pull back from the catastrophes which loom ahead we should redouble our support of education.  It is time that we give the same focus and support to the quality of our schools that we are giving to healthcare.  The key to good jobs and rising income is great education.

(TAG) You can find more commentaries by Jeff Shields on-line at VPR-dot-net.
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