Editor’s Note: Education still at risk, 40 years later

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Nearly 40 years ago, President Ronald Reagan commissioned a comprehensive report on education. “A Nation at Risk,” which came out in 1983, warned of the increasing failure of the U.S. public school system.

Despite the call to action in that report and consequent reforms that were enacted around the country, student performance has remained stubbornly flat — even with a tripling of inflation-adjusted federal education funding since 1970.

The trend of poor performance is certainly true in Michigan, as the state continues to fall in its student achievement rankings.

A group of education, business and political leaders met last week at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of schools and make a “clarion call” to rally the school choice community.

The Center for Education Reform, led by CEO Jeanne Allen, has issued a report on the need for more school innovation, including doubling down on school choice initiatives. Allen brought together a panel of education experts to discuss the report, including former Michigan Gov. John Engler.

Engler, now president of the Business Roundtable, ushered in Michigan’s charter school law in the 1990s. He continues to advocate school choice in his current role. Earlier this month, Engler urged the Legislature to leave out a Detroit Education Commission tied to a bailout of Detroit Public Schools; he believed it would unfairly limit charter schools in the city.

“There’s no excuse for the current state of America’s educational system,” Engler told the group last week. “We run the risk of falling even further behind if we don’t incorporate innovation and opportunity as bedrock principles.”