Today, education plays an extremely important role since people need education as the basis for their professional career. In addition, education provides large opportunities not only for professional but also for personal development of people. In such a context, the quality of education is of the utmost importance since the better is the quality of education the better are job opportunities for people. However, the contemporary system of education cannot provide all students with the education of the high quality. In stark contrast, today, the problem of the quality of education is aggravated by the problem of the equal access of all students to education. To put it more precisely, a considerable part of students living in the poverty stricken neighborhood are practically deprived of an opportunity to get higher education, while the quality of education is extremely low. In this respect, the system of the public education has proved its ineffectiveness. As a result, policy makers attempt to develop new strategies and approaches to education in order to tackle both problems the problem of the quality and accessibility of education. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that Democratic and Republican approaches to education differ consistently but it is obvious that the party that takes the political power in the USA will define the development of the education system for years ahead.
On analyzing the current situation in the education in the USA, it should be said that the existing education system is imperfect, if not to say unjust. To put it more precisely, the modern system of education does not provide all students with equal educational opportunities. In this respect, it is possible to distinguish the middle- and upper-class students and students from low income families, which have absolutely different educational opportunities. In actuality, it is obvious that students living in the middle and upper-class families are in an advantageous position because they have access to the higher education, while their school education is consistently better compared to education students living in low income families receive.
In fact, the problem of inequality is determined by the quality of education and its accessibility. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that formally all students have equal rights to get education, but, in actuality, students do not have equal opportunities.
The modern system of public schools has already proved its low efficiency and inability to provide all students with equal opportunities. To put it more precisely, students living in poverty stricken neighborhoods face the problem of the low quality of education. In fact, many public schools are characterized by technological backwardness and the lack of modern information and telecommunication systems that are successfully applied in the modern education. In addition, it is important to emphasize the professional level of specialists working at public schools. As the matter of fact, public schools are not a desirable place where teachers are eager to work because of the lower wages and prospects of the professional growth. Moreover, educators are mainly representatives of the middle class and they are not always able to understand needs of their students, while often they underestimate their academic abilities. At this point, it is also worth mentioning the problem of a considerable cultural gap between students in poverty stricken neighborhoods and middle class educators. They have a different cultural background and often they have a different ethnic background that may be a serious obstacle to mutual understanding of students and teachers and their effective cooperation in the learning process.
No wonder students studying in public schools have a few opportunities to continue their education at colleges and universities. In such a context, the position of middle class and upper-class students are in an advantageous position. To put it more precisely, these students, especially students living in upper-class families, can attend private schools, where they can enjoy the latest advancements in the field of education. The professional level of educators working in private schools is consistently higher and technological equipment of such schools is incomparably better than in public schools.
Another important factor that determines the huge gap between students living in low-income families and middle and upper-class students is socioeconomic status of students’ family. In fact, poverty is probably the most serious obstacle on the way of students to the higher education. In this respect, it should be said that students living in poverty stricken neighborhoods cannot afford studying at colleges or universities because they cannot cover costs of the higher education. At this point, it is important to understand that often such students have to start working at the younger age compared to students from the middle and upper-class. They need to earn money to maintain their families, since working parents cannot always maintain their families alone. In fact, even if students from low income families enter University or college they need to work more than students from the middle and upper-class. On the one hand, they need to earn money to afford their education, while, on the other hand, they need to learn more to close the gap between them and other students, which was created by the low quality education in public schools, where they used to study.
Naturally, in such a situation, it is impossible to speak about the equality of educational opportunities and the high quality of education. At the same time, the inequality of educational opportunities lays the foundation to the social and economic inequality which widens the gap between middle and upper-class, on the one hand, and lower class, on the other. It proves beyond a doubt that the inequality of educational opportunities leads to the growth of social tension since the lower class is deprived of economic opportunities because its representatives cannot get well-paid jobs, which need high qualification and, thus, the higher education, while the middle and upper-class benefit from their larger job opportunities and, thus, higher level of income. Obviously, such a situation cannot remain unchanged, especially today, when the role of education has increased substantially and when education is an essential condition of the professional success of an individual.
In actuality, politicians have already understood the significance of education and necessity to close the gap between the rich and the poor to provide better educational opportunities to all students. At the same time, until today, the situation basically remains quite difficult and the problem of inequality and ineffectiveness of the public education persists. Nevertheless, the authorities launched a number of programs, such as No Child Left Behind, which aim at the support of students from low income families to provide them with the wider access to education and larger educational opportunities.
No wonder the current educational policies are widely criticized. In actuality, it is possible to speak about different approaches to educational policies from the part of the Democrats and Republicans. In fact, the Democrats mainly insist on the necessity to enlarge the state support of the national system of education and to help students from low income families. They stand on the ground that the increase of the state funding will improve the situation consistently. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the recent stimulus plan developed by Obama Administration which implies the support of education through the increase of funding, tax credits and other financial tools, which imply the support of education system by the state. For instance, according to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 over $141 billion will go to education (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009). Furthermore, the Democrats suppose to increase funding of grants aiming at low income families and students can count for the financial support from the part of the state. Another measure suggested by the Democrats is tax credit for college students which, as they believe, can increase educational opportunities for students living in low income families. In addition, the Democrats plan to increase funding of state incentive grants and innovation fund grants (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 2009).
However, the Republicans are very skeptical about the current plans and policies of the Democrats in the field of education. The Republicans stand on the ground that the state funding will rather increase the federal and state budgets’ spending than improve the quality of education and enlarge educational opportunities for students form low income families. At the same time, what the Republicans suggest is the low interference of the state in the system of education and decrease of its funding by the state. In actuality, they insist on the optimization of the existing system of education that may be achieved through the reform of the public education. However, the solution suggested by the Republicans implies that the state will not increase the funding of the education, instead they believe the development of special education programs can stimulate the improvement of the education system and quality of education.
At this point, it should be said that the Republican approach to education is grounded on the traditional position of the Republicans which viewed education the domain where the state should rather establish general rules and principles than fund education and support students.
The Republicans traditionally distance from the state financial support of education en masse because they believe that the financial support of education at large scale will misbalance the national system of education, while benefits and positive effects from the state support of education are doubtful. In this respect, it is possible to partially agree with the position of the Republicans because the existing educational programs and policies are still ineffective, while the suggested increase of the state funding of education will hardly improve the current situation in education consistently because the increase of funding will be annihilated by the current economic recession which forces people as well as the state to spend more on education. Hence, critics (Yagelsh, 186) argue that current educational policies will maintain the situation unchanged in the field of education.
In such a way, it is obvious that the Democrats and the Republicans have quite different approaches to tackle problems in the field of education. The Democrats mainly stand on the ground of the large-scale state funding and support of the education system, while the Republicans are inclined to preserve the traditional approach to education, when the state played the role of regulator and defined major policies but did not take the full responsibility for funding the education system. Such a difference in the position of the Democrats and the Republicans is apparently determined by the difference of their political platforms. To put it more precisely, the Democrats were traditionally inclined to the development of social programs to ensure social protection of people. In contrast, the Republicans traditionally supported the policy of the minimal interference of the state into social and economic development of the country. Hence, the education system was not an exception from the general policies traditionally conducted by the Republicans.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the current situation in the education system of the USA is quite disturbing because the gap between students from low income families, on the one hand, and middle and upper-class students, on the other. In fact, the system of public schools does not provide all students with equal educational opportunities, while the gap between public schools and private schools remains enormous. In addition, financial opportunities of students in low income families and middle and upper-class families are different. As a result, students living in low income families are deprived of equal educational opportunities that provoke the social tension. The situation will deteriorate consistently if policy makers prove to be unable to solve the problem of inequality and lack of access to education.