January 24, 2023

Education is a human right and a public responsibility.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed January 24th as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development. Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.

Today, 244 million children and youth are out of school, and 771 million adults are illiterate. There is a crisis in foundational learning, literacy and numeracy skills among young learners. 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. Their right to education is being violated and it is now time to transform education.

This year's theme is “to invest in people, prioritize education”. Building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022, this year’s Day will call for maintaining strong political mobilization around education and chart the way to translate commitments and global initiatives into action. Education must be prioritized to accelerate progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals against the backdrop of a global recession, growing inequalities and the climate crisis.

According to 2017-2018 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are 130,930 public and private K-12 schools in the U.S. Here is how they break down:

  • All: 130,930
  • Elementary schools: 87,498
  • Secondary schools: 26,727
  • Combined schools: 15,804
  • Other: 901

The three largest school districts in the country are:

  • New York City (enrollment 960,484)
  • Los Angeles Unified (enrollment 495,255)
  • Chicago (enrollment 359,476)

There are 49.9 million students in public schools based on federal projections for the fall of 2022. Almost 3.4 million students attend charter schools and 5.5 million attend private schools.

The average teacher's salary is $57,900, while the average salary for the principal of a public school is $98,300.

In 2019-2020, almost $795B was spent on public elementary and secondary education by local, state, and federal agencies. State and local governments provided about $734B (or 92.4 percent) of the funding, while the federal government chipped in around $60B (or 7.6 percent).

The state of Illinois spends $15,594 per student, compared with the national average of $13,679.

In 2018-2019, 86.2% of Illinois seniors graduated were:

  • American Indian/ Alaska Native: 78%
  • Asian/ Pacific Islander: 94.9%
  • Hispanic: 82.2%
  • Black: 76.5%
  • White: 90.8%
  • Two or more races: 86.9%

In 2022, Illinois had 1,925,415 students enrolled in a total of 3,977 schools in 853 school districts. There were 130,467 teachers in the public schools, or roughly one teacher for every 15 students, compared to the national average of 1:16.

Thirty countries now outperform the United States in mathematics at the high school level. Many are ahead in science, too. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, millennials in the workforce tied for last on tests of mathematics and problem solving among the millennials in the workforces of all the industrial countries tested. We now have the worst-educated workforce in the industrialized world. Because our workers are among the most highly paid in the world, Americans are uncompetitive in the global economy and against increasingly smart machines, which is a formula for a grim future. What we need is a coherent system of education in which each policy supports at each level, from the classroom to the top of the department of education. With rare exceptions, we have no such system.