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Education Report 2023


Education institutions are a cornerstone of our society and democracy. They are a “cornerstone” in the sense that they are considered important, immovable, and what everything else rests upon.

Heading into 2023, the importance and permanence of education is being questioned. This document examines factors that are eroding the perceived value of education.

The top portion of this document presents some points for further discussion and reflection The remainder of this document is a chronological list of news stories related to education with the most recent at top. The news stories relate to the topics presented at the top of the document.

The Education Report 2024 is now available. [View]

Democracy and Public Education

The United States runs on a form of democracy that is much like crowd sourcing for self-governance. We collectively solve problems and make social decisions. This requires a public education system to make sure everyone can provide meaningful and accurate inputs to the decision making process.

Unfortunately, public education has become politicized in recent years. It’s been portrayed and perceived as being a federally controlled system of indoctrinating young people.

This is a criticism from those “on the right” as well as those “on the left” who feel the “other side” is indoctrinating the next generation. The song “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd has the refrain “We Don’t Need No Education” and the music video shows strict structured education that strives for uniformity and compliance. [View Video]

Conservatives might blame all of society’s problems on a liberal education system that has taken God and prayer out of the schools. The lack of prayer and daily pledge of allegiance are considered big problems.

Some people may feel we would be better off eliminating the arts, investing more in football, with reinstating prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and corporal punishment in public schools. Others may feel we need more focus on the arts, foreign language studies, world studies, and less strict discipline to help foster individuality and creativity.

Recently in Texas, the state took over a school, then shut down the library and converted it into a “discipline center.” [View Video]

These extreme views result in tension among people with different viewpoints. When the pendulum swings too far to one side, the other side complains.

A remedy for the tension regarding education would be to have money go to parents for them to choose the school they feel is best for their children. A concern about that approach is that it could result in hyper-polarized education institutions, and some schools would be underfunded. For more on this topic read, “Democracy Relies on Public Schools” by Nicholas Johnson.

Teacher Shortage Crisis

According to the National Education Association, the U.S. has 300,000 teacher and school staff shortages. [Source: MSNBC] Our national K-12 and higher education institutions are described as being at a breaking point. [Source: Fox 7 Austin] In some schools, students are sitting in classrooms for the entire class period with no teacher present. [Source: NY Times] Of all the school districts in the United States, 72% do not have enough applicants to fill needed positions. [Source: CBS]

School Closures

“One of the oldest universities west of the Mississippi and the second-oldest in the state — Iowa Wesleyan University — is closing 181 years after opening in 1842.” [Source: The Gazette, 29 Mar 2023]

Stories about the closing of schools can be as startling as hearing about hospital closures. These are institutions that society relies on, yet they are being closed for a variety of reasons.

“Not only have many smaller institutions struggled as students opt for less expensive public schools or alternatives to a four-year degree altogether, but economic uncertainty and inflation also continue to weigh on markets, taking a hefty toll on endowments and leaving more colleges and universities in financial jeopardy.” [Source: CNBC, 22 Feb 2023]

Higher Ed Concerns

A March 2023 report from The Brookings Institution begins with this summary:

Higher education has long been a vehicle for economic mobility and the primary center for workforce skill development. But alongside the recognition of the many individual and societal benefits from postsecondary education has been a growing focus on the individual and societal costs of financing higher education. In light of national conversations about growing student loan debt and repayment, there have been growing calls for improved higher education accountability and interrogating the value of different higher education programs.” [Source: The Brookings Institution, 14 Mar 2023]

That report examines the legitimate concerns about higher education as viewed from within the institutions themselves, as well as responding to outside criticism.

The Rise of AI

At the start of 2023, there has been a flood of news coverage about recent developments in artificial intelligence, and how high-level jobs are being replaced with AI systems. [More]

Few people will want to invest 4+ years and a significant amount of money on an education that may be worthless in the near future.

Artificial intelligence will likely have a significant impact on the delivery of education as AI systems replace some teaching roles, and AI many result in a diminishing need for education in some subject areas if AI systems can provide those services.

In the 1980s, some aspects of language instruction were already being provided with greater efficiency on computer systems that could track each individual student’s learning level at the word level. These systems would offer an optimized presentation, and repeating, of words based on how familiar the learner was with each word.

Software designed to teach typing skills could measure in milliseconds the response times of each learner for each letter on the keyboard, thus presenting typing practice in a way optimized for each learner.

These types of systems dramatically speed up the learning process and have a detailed awareness of every student, thousands of students, with a specificity not possible for a human teacher and probably not even perceptible by the student.

Fast forward 40 years and today’s AI systems are much more competent at teaching on a variety of subjects, and performing tasks previously done by humans.

Working Class Perception

There’s a segment of society that views higher education as an elitist expensive right-of-passage for the entitled class. These critics consider higher ed to be a form of entertainment for those who are wealthy and connected.

The people who hold this view are generally those who don’t have the freedom to take four years out of their life while paying increasingly higher tuition. They may get hired immediately out of high school, perhaps shortly after an apprenticeship or community college program.

It’s not just a sour grapes mentality, but an astute observation that skilled hard working laborers who generate value and profits sometimes end up in lower positions than people with degrees who may not have industry knowledge and experience. There is an understandable tension between labor and management.

Some concerns of minimum wage and lower wage workers are addressed by employee owned companies where everyone shares in the profit of the company. People working on the assembly line who think of ways to promote efficiency, safety, and profits are paid for their contributions. Yet in traditional workplaces, a sense of salary disparity exists.

Competing Alternatives

As other education and vocation opportunities become increasingly available, universities must work harder to entice a new generation of students (a their parents) to pay for the rising cost of tuition.

Celebrities like Mike Rowe have helped promote a positive message about community college and apprenticeship in the trades as alternatives to a 4-year degree.

Internships offer on-the-job education that pays you to learn a vocation. That’s seen as a more appealing way to get advanced training.

Get Rich Quick Stories

There is an endless stream of news stories about people who quit their job to begin earning a 6-figure income through some opportunity.

  • “A 26-year-old quit his job in advertising because he can make more as a TikTok creator,” Fortune, 19 Feb 2023 [View]
  • “This 37-year-old quit her job and now makes $10,000 a month in passive income,” CNBC, 20 Oct 2022 [View]
  • “This 28-year-old quit her job and turned her side hustle into a $1 million business,” CNBC, 2 Feb 2022 [View]

Stories like these are popular among people wanting a quick easy way to get rich that doesn’t involve going to school or working hard.

We hear about people making a good income as content creators, influencers, and video game streamers.

Young people who are continuously fed easy money success stories are less likely to commit to education. Why not skip the years of study and just start working? With the growth of artificial intelligence, will book smarts and degrees be needed in the future?

The free market offers education options that some find more appealing.

Political Factors

The segment of society represented by lower income skilled laborers generally feels that higher education is a country club where some people aren’t permitted to join for arbitrary reasons. These people tend to be moderate to “liberal” in their political leanings, and thus may gravitate toward the Democratic Party.

For K-12 schools, there’s a concern about an incarceration crisis and the school to prison pipeline. This places blame on institutionalized racial disparities within our education systems. This vilifies schools and diminishes their support.

“Another Brick in the Wall” is a pop song from the 1970s by Pink Floyd that begins with these words, “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.” The song and video depicts education institutions as an authoritarian and fascist means to create and abundant source of obedient workers and citizens.

So, there are a variety of concerns about education from those considered to be on the left.

Meanwhile, conservative leaders and representatives of the Republican Party have their own reasons for criticizing higher education, believing that public colleges, universities, and K-12 schools are bastions of leftist indoctrination and radicalization.

So, higher education is surrounded by critics of all political persuasions. There’s a parallel to the criticism being leveled at well-established news and journalism sources — each side believes the institutions are biased, flawed, harmful, and serving special interests.

This makes it difficult for education institutions, K-12 and higher, to get the funding and public support needed.

Pockets of Support

The ongoing trope among comedians, late night talk show hosts, and the entertainment industry is to depict conservatives as being anti-education and anti-book. [Video Clip Example] That characterization is reinforced by ever dwindling funding for K-12 and higher education public institutions in ‘red states’ with Republican governors.

Some conservatives are decrying “education for all” proposals by Bernie Sanders and AOC as socialist.

Yet other conservatives are making support of higher education for all as their first priority.

The Tennessee Promise program makes college education accessible to all, and the red state is investing in education as if it’s the next gold rush. Companies are stampeding into Tennessee for the abundance of skilled labor.

Utah is planning on $1 billion in tax cuts, but education cuts are not a consideration and in fact there are increases in education funding planned. [Source]

Hillsdale College of Michigan is a conservative college that has been offering a classical liberal arts education since 1844 with an emphasis on required reading of classical literature. Besides the traditional curriculum offered by the school, there seems to be a genuine enthusiasm for instilling a passion for learning among the students. The 8 to 1 student teacher ratio and class sizes of about 14 students permit a more attentive, focused, and personalized experience. [Learn More]

So, it’s not that conservatives are entirely anti-education. They are very supportive of higher education if they feel it promotes their views, values, and goals.

There are pockets of support for higher education among conservatives and liberals. But generally those pockets of support are not wide-spread and thus education is at risk and in decline.


Below are news stories about the education topics mentioned above. The stories are listed in chronological order from most recent first. Entry headings indicate the source and date of the story.

CBC News (4 Sep 2023)

“What are collegiate schools and why are they popping up across Alberta?” — A look inside a specialized school intended to give students direct pathways to post-secondary education and careers. [Source]

MSNBC (30 Aug 2023)

“Houston school libraries turned into ‘discipline centers’ in ‘hostile takeover’ by state” — This summer the Texas Education Agency took control of the Houston Independent School District, replacing the community’s elected school board members and pushing out the superintendent to install a new one. The new district leader, Mike Miles, has implemented a “New Education System” which, among other changes, has replaced some school libraries with centers for work and discipline for students. Antonia Hylton, correspondent for NBC News, reports. [Source]

NY Times (22 Jun 2023)

“We’re Taught Education Can End Poverty. Here’s the Truth.” — Text by Nicholas Kristof. Around the world we talk a good game about the importance of education, but we rarely act as if we mean it. Here’s an unlikely exception: Sierra Leone, one of the world’s most impoverished countries. In the video above, I travel to Sierra Leone to chronicle that country’s campaign to get all children in school — and then to get them to actually learn to read, even in ramshackle schools with no electricity or plumbing. The children broke my heart and also inspired me. If Sierra Leone can do this, other countries can — and surely the United States can emulate that same determination to help every child learn. This education revolution in Sierra Leone is the brainchild of President Julius Maada Bio and his youthful minister of education, David Sengeh. A Harvard graduate, Sengeh was working for IBM when President Bio asked him to come home and help his country — but now they face a test. Nationwide elections will be held late this month, with Bio campaigning for another term. [Source]

CNBC (16 Jun 2023)

“Why More And More Colleges Are Closing Down Across America” — The mid-2010’s saw an uptick in U.S. college closures—particularly in the private nonprofit space. Since 2016, 91 U.S. private colleges have either closed, merged with another school, or announced plans to close according to a CNBC analysis of data from Higher Ed Dive. This trend is affecting tens of thousands of college students across the country, with almost half of those schools closing after the onset of the pandemic in 2020. For many struggling schools the pandemic was the final straw—but two major themes showed up consistently throughout the closures: finances and enrollment. [Source]

CBS News (6 Jun 2023)

“Oklahoma school board approves taxpayer-funded religious school” — An Oklahoma school board has voted to approve what could become the nation’s first publicly-funded religious school. Oklahoma’s attorney general warns it’s unconstitutional and leaves the state vulnerable to potential litigation. Laura Meckler, national educational writer for the Washington Post, joins CBS News to discuss the legal opposition. [Source]

PBS NewsHour (6 Jun 2023)

“A Brief But Spectacular take on teacher burnout” — The nation is in the midst of a teacher shortage, and at the end of another school year, burnout is causing many more teachers to call it quits. Micaela DeSimone is a 6th-grade English teacher in a charter school in Queens, New York. She shares her Brief But Spectacular take on teacher burnout and explains how the past few years have changed her views on what was once her dream job. [Source]

WCPO 9 (6 Jun 2023)

“Cincinnati Public Schools feeling the impacts of teacher shortage” — A recent report from the Ohio Department of Education reveals there’s a critical need for more teachers in southwest Ohio. “It’s a big deal. Absolutely a big deal,” said Jeff Wensing, Vice President of the Ohio Education Association. “There are about 50% less students choosing education as a major. That’s concerning.” Data from Ohio Department of Education’s report shows there’s an increase of Ohio teachers who are deciding to leave the profession. Of more than 2,300 teachers surveyed, 72% reported they have seriously considered leaving their job recently. [Source]

ABC 10 (31 May 2023)

“The Burnout Equation: America’s Teacher Shortage Crisis (Part 2)” — The Burnout Equation: America’s Teacher Shortage Crisis (Part 2) | To The Point [Source]

ABC 10 (30 May 2023)

“The Burnout Equation: America’s Teacher Shortage Crisis (Part 1)” — Research has found that teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling. But after decades of insufficient pay and increased workloads, many teachers across the United States have had enough. [Source]

Wall Street Journal (24 Apr 2023)

“How to Maximize College Financial Aid and Scholarship Money” — Financial experts say the May 1st enrollment decision deadline is an ideal time for students and families to negotiate a better financial aid package. WSJ’s Oyin Adedoyin joins host J.R. Whalen to discuss the best ways to request more aid. [Source]

Real Time with Bill Maher (21 Apr 2023)

“The Problem with ‘The College Experience'” — Professors Glenn Loury and Daniel Bessner join Bill to discuss the transformation taking place in American universities. [Source]

PBS NewsHour (16 Apr 2023)

“Schools, families feel the pinch after end of federal free meal program” — A federal pandemic-era program that provided free meals for all public school students ended last September. A recent survey by a group that advocates for universal free school lunch found that 847 school districts have racked up more than $19 million in debt from unpaid lunch fees. Crystal FitzSimons from the Food Research and Action Center joins Ali Rogin to discuss. [Source]

Amanpour and Company (10 Apr 2023)

Why Are Teachers Quitting? Inside America’s “Most Vulnerable Profession” — Staffing shortages, burnout, funding cuts, and debates over the curriculum are adding to the pressures on America’s educators. In her new book, bestselling author Alexandra Robbins followed three teachers to see how these issues are changing the way they work. Robbins joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the state of teaching. [Source]

CBS Texas (6 Apr 2023)

“Teacher shortage lead to innovative approach to staffing” — The grow your own approach is one strategy recommended by the state’s teacher vacancy task force. [Source]

WCNC (30 Mar 2023)

“NC teaching program helps CMS fill teacher shortages” — More than halfway through the school year, there are still plenty of school vacancies in North Carolina schools. A state report anticipates the ongoing teacher pipeline shortage around the state will only worsen in the next few years. This is partly due to the number of people enrolling in programs to become a teacher being in a deep decline. The number of students enrolling in a college for a teaching degree in North Carolina is down by 42% in just a year. The state hasn’t seen those numbers since 2017. The state relies heavily on programs like Teach for America to help recruit the future workforce. [Source]

The Gazette (28 Mar 2023)

Iowa Wesleyan University closing after 181 years,” The Gazette, Vanessa Miller, 28 Mar 2023. — Excerpt: “Iowa Wesleyan University closing after 181 years” [Source]

CBS Sunday Morning (26 Mar 2023)

“COVID’s education crisis: A lost generation?” — Students who were forced into remote learning because of the pandemic lost valuable time in class; one nationwide study shows reading skills have dropped to their lowest point in 30 years. With the added personal toll from COVID, this generation is facing a crisis of stunted learning and emotional turmoil. Correspondent Tracy Smith talks with educators about what can be done. [Source]

Wall Street Journal (21 Mar 2023)

“Apprenticeships vs. College: Are Traditional Universities Losing Appeal?” — Some apprenticeships are boasting acceptance rates as competitive as Ivy League universities. WSJ reporter Doug Belkin joins host Erin Delmore to explain why students are rethinking the cost-benefit analysis of a four-year college education. [Source]

ABC News (9 Mar 2023)

“More states turning to 4-day school weeks to address teacher shortages” — ABC News’ Averi Harper reports on the impact of school districts in Missouri who have changed to a four-day school week in order to recruit and retain teachers amid shortages. [Source]

TODAY (7 Mar 2023)

“The number of teachers who are quitting hits new high” — School districts across the U.S. continue to see spikes in the number of teachers leaving their profession and the alarming trend has parents concerned about what that will mean for students. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports for TODAY. [Source]

FOX 7 Austin (6 Mar 2023)

“Texas Monthly talks about ‘Public Schools at a Breaking Point” — Running for a school board position has traditionally been non-controversial, low key, even uneventful, but for one Dripping Springs resident, the role comes at a time when public schools face a crisis. This is the subject of an article in Texas Monthly by Naomi Schwartz. [Source]

CNBC (22 Feb 2023)

“More colleges set to close even as top schools experience application boom,” CNBC, Jessica Dickler, 22 Feb 2023. — Excerpt: “The number of colleges closing down in the past 10 years has quadrupled compared with the previous decade, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Not only have many smaller institutions struggled as students opt for less expensive public schools or alternatives to a four-year degree altogether, but economic uncertainty and inflation also continue to weigh on markets, taking a hefty toll on endowments and leaving more colleges and universities in financial jeopardy.” [Source]

CBS Miami (18 Jan 2023)

“Tackling teacher shortage” — There is still a teacher shortage despite new program to recruit veterans as teachers. [Source]

USA Today (21 Dec 2022)

“Teacher shortages: Why educators are leaving the profession in droves” — With teacher shortages affecting schools nationwide, educators share how pay, parents, politics and the pandemic have led some to leave the profession. [Source]

FOX 13 News Utah (8 Dec 2022)

“Utah’s governor proposes $1 billion in tax cuts, boosts in education funding” — Governor Spencer Cox unveiled part of his proposed $28.4 billion budget on Thursday, proposing big boosts in teacher salaries, education spending and tax cuts. [Watch Video]

VOX (21 Nov 2022)

“The incredible shrinking future of college — The population of college-age Americans is about to crash. It will change higher education forever.,” Vox, Kevin Carey, 21 Nov 2022. Excerpt: In four years, the number of students graduating from high schools across the country will begin a sudden and precipitous decline, due to a rolling demographic aftershock of the Great Recession. Traumatized by uncertainty and unemployment, people decided to stop having kids during that period. But even as we climbed out of the recession, the birth rate kept dropping, and we are now starting to see the consequences on campuses everywhere. Classes will shrink, year after year, for most of the next two decades. People in the higher education industry call it “the enrollment cliff.” Among the small number of elite colleges and research universities — think the Princetons and the Penn States — the cliff will be no big deal. These institutions have their pick of applicants and can easily keep classes full. For everyone else, the consequences could be dire. [Source]

The New York Times (18 Nov 2022)

“Empty Classrooms, Abandoned Kids: Inside The Great Teacher Resignation” — Across the United States, educators are walking out en masse. Vacancies — from teachers to bus drivers to custodians — aren’t being filled, and schools are scrambling to find substitutes. Those who stay are sacrificing preparation time to cover classes, taking on extra kids, extra grading and extra tasks. While working on an Opinion Video about the crisis, we heard of vice principals doing yard work, counselors covering lunch duty and teachers mopping floors. It’s an exhausting and destructive spiral. As people burn out and leave, conditions only worsen for those who stay. In our new video, six educators explain why they, and the American education system, are at breaking point. [Source]

Harvey Silverglate via Quillette (2 Nov 2022)

“Bloated College Administration Is Making Education Unaffordable — Our campuses are stuffed with non-academic office workers. If elected to Harvard’s Board of Overseers, I‘ll propose firing most of them,” Quillette, Harvey Silverglate, 2 Nov 2022. Excerpt: With the first semester of the new academic year upon us, many students and parents are asking: How did college tuition skyrocket to the point where many middle-class families must mortgage (or re-mortgage) their homes, or prematurely raid their retirement funds, to send even a single child to a typical four-year college, whether public or private? [Source]

TODAY (28 Sep 2022)

“New Data Shows Nationwide Teacher Shortage Is Worse Than Feared” — A new report by the Department of Education indicates that more than half of the public schools they surveyed are starting the new school year understaffed. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports for TODAY. [Source]

ABC News (29 Aug 2022)

“Nationwide teacher shortage hits schools as new year begins” — ABC News’ Mireya Villarreal reports on how lingering pandemic stress, feelings of burnout, increased workload and low pay are some of the reasons more teachers are leaving the profession. [Source]

Business Insider (23 Aug 2022)

“A teacher who quit and took a job at Costco says life is much better now — she has a life, can pay her bills and finally sleeps at night,” Business Insider, Jacob Zinkula, 23 Aug 2022. Excerpt: “A former teacher who left her career in education to work at a local Costco now she says her life has improved massively. Maggie Perkins quit her teaching job in 2020 after two years of “quiet quitting” because “the conditions were not sustainable to have a quality of life,” she told Insider in August. She said while passionate about teaching, she was burnt out and working 60-hour weeks for under $50,000 for five years.” [Source: Business Insider]

MSNBC (20 Aug 2022)

“States Across The U.S. Face Teacher Shortage” — According to the National Education Association, the U.S. has 300,000 teacher and school staff shortages. MSNBC’s Tiffany Cross speaks with David Johns and Regina Fuentes about what could be causing this shortage and what the public can do to support educators. [Source]

CBS Mornings (15 Aug 2022)

“Nationwide shortage of teachers leaves school districts looking to foreign teachers” — A nationwide shortage in teachers has left many states scrambling to find alternative solutions. Now, some schools are turning to foreign teachers to bridge the gap. Manuel Bojorquez reports. [Source]

The Project (12 Aug 2022)

“Teachers Are Leaving The Profession, As The Education Sector Is Stretched To Breaking Point” — Educators are leaving the profession en masse, particularly across NSW. Those who remain in their roles stretched to breaking point. So what can be done to fix it? [Source]

NBC News (11 Aug 2022)

“Schools Face Severe Teacher Shortage Heading Into The Fall” — Low pay, burnout and stress are among the many reasons behind the nationwide teacher shortage. Carlton Jenkins, superintendent of the Madison Metropolitan School District in Wisconsin, and Jesus Jara, superintendent of Clark County school in the Las Vegas area say there needs to be a fundamental change to K-12 public education. [Source]

The Wall Street Journal (19 Jul 2022)

“Broke Colleges Resort to Mergers for Survival,” WSJ, Douglas Belkin, 19 Jul 2022. — Excerpt: “The number of colleges closing down in the past 10 years, around 200, has quadrupled compared with the previous decade. And in the past four years, there have been 95 college mergers, compared with 78 over the prior 18 years, according to data compiled by the consulting group EY Parthenon.” [Source]

VICE News (21 Feb 2020)

“Charter Schools May Be the Future of Public Education” — School choice is an education reform movement that promotes charter schools and voucher programs as alternatives to traditional public schools. One of the biggest advocates for “choice” over the past two decades, Betsy DeVos, is now serving as President Trump’s secretary of education. [Source]

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com