Monthly Archives: January 2015

Nuclear terrorism concerns

Nuclear terrorism remains a serious concern, according to Yukiya Amano, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General. Amano’s warnings appear to contradict President Obama’s State of the Union comments that the “shadow of the crisis of terrorism has passed.”

Iran’s atomic program also was singled out as a problem, as was North Korea’s nuclear efforts in the Director-General’s comments in Jakarta, Indonesia on Monday.

“I remain seriously concerned about North Korea’s nuclear programme. Agency inspectors were required to leave the country in 2009, so our knowledge of developments there is limited. But we are maintaining our readiness to play an essential role in verifying the country’s nuclear programme.

As far as Iran is concerned, the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared to us by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. But we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.

2015 will be a significant year for the Iran nuclear issue. The future will depend very much on the outcome of the negotiations between the so-called E3+3 countries – China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States – and Iran.”

In addressing the Iran nuclear issue, two things are important. First, with the cooperation of Iran, the Agency needs to clarify issues with possible military dimensions to the satisfaction of Member States. Also, Iran needs to implement the additional protocol so that the Agency can provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.”

 Information about the IAEA data base can be found at: IAEA INCIDENT AND TRAFFICKING DATABASE (ITDB)

Will increased federal spending on education truly produce substantial results?

 Will increased federal spending on education truly produce substantial result?

Americans are dissatisfied with the disappointing results from their educational system. Many seek to resolve that issue by increased spending.

A number of salient questions must be raised regarding the concept, not the least of which is affordability.  With the nation’s debt doubling during the current Administration and now standing at over $18 trillion, with vast new amounts being added each year for the foreseeable future, is this new federal expense affordable at all?  With U.S. taxes already excessive, can the taxpayers be burdened further?

While the financial considerations are important, there is an even more relevant point: will increased spending provide improved results?

Current federal spending, & disappointing results

Washington already spends a great deal on higher education.  A New America Foundation  report notes that “The federal government provided $30.2 billion in grant aid to help individuals pay for a higher education in the 2014-15 school year. Nearly all of the aid was directed to students from lower income families. Grant aid does not need to be paid back and generally may be used to pay for tuition, housing and other expenses at any institution of higher education that the recipient wishes to attend. The largest federal grant program is the Pell Grant program, followed by the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program. These two programs award grants based solely on a student’s financial status.”

CBS news study revealed that:

“The United States spends more than other developed nations on its students’ education each year, with parents and private foundations picking up more of the costs, an international survey released Tuesday found. Despite the spending, U.S. students still trail their rivals on international tests. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – which groups the world’s most developed countries – writes in its annual report that brand-new and experienced teachers alike in the United States out-earn most of their counterparts around the globe. But U.S. salaries have not risen at the same pace as other nations. The findings, part of a 440-page tome of statistics, put the United States’ spending on its young people in context.

“The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system – more than any other nation covered in the report.

“That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.”

Critics of government spending have noted that additional sending for education has not produced notable results.

According to Downsizing Government.org:

“Despite large increases in federal intervention since the 1960s, combined with large increases in funding by all levels of government, K-12 educational achievement has improved little. The most widely used measures of school achievement are scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which are available back to the early 1970s…The average NAEP mathematics score rose just two points to 306 in 2008 from 304 in 1973. The average NAEP reading score rose just one point to 286 in 2008 from 285 in 1971. These scores are on a 500-point scale.

“Other measures show similarly poor achievement, or at least a lack of improvement. For example, the percentage of students who had completed high school within four years of entering ninth grade is 75 percent today, about the same as it was in the mid-1970s.

“How have things fared under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act? It is difficult to isolate the effects of the law because numerous other changes might have affected recent school results, and no results with start and end dates closely reflecting the period during which NCLB has been in effect are available. With those caveats in mind, NAEP subject test (as opposed to long-term-trend data) and long-term data do not paint a particularly positive picture.

“On subject tests, there have been very small gains in fourth-grade mathematics, with the average score rising from 235 to 240 (on a 500-point scale) between 2003 and 2007. However, the average score on this test increased much faster in the period before NCLB was fully implemented, rising from 226 to 235 between 2000 and 2003. In reading, the average score dropped slightly in eighth grade, from 264 in 2002 to 263 in 2007.

“On the long-term-trends test, the closest start date to NCLB’s 2002 enactment is 1999, so it is very hard to gauge changes for NCLB’s time frame, much less the law’s effect on those results.  The greatest improvements between 1999 and 2008 were for 9-year-olds in mathematics, where scores rose from 232 to 243. Reading scores for that age also rose significantly, from 212 to 220. The final appreciable improvements were for 13-year-olds in mathematics, where scores rose from 276 to 281. For 13-year-olds in reading, in contrast, scores only rose a point, and for 17-year-olds reading and mathematics scores both dropped two points.

“Aside from looking at overall test scores, an examination of the effectiveness of particular federal programs indicates generally poor results. Consider Title I, the core federal education subsidy program. In a recent book, education policy experts Marvin Kosters and Brent Mast concluded the following:

“After more than thirty-five years of experience and numerous careful efforts to evaluate its performance, the evidence has failed to demonstrate that Title I programs have been systematically and significantly contributing to reducing disparities in achievement by improving the performance of its beneficiaries . . . Experiments by federal, state, and local authorities and major shifts in the emphasis of federal policy have all failed to bring systematic improvement. Or consider the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has a budget of about $1 billion. OII claims to be “a nimble, entrepreneurial arm of the U.S. Department of Education” making “strategic investments in innovative educational practices.”

The Eli & Edyth Broad Foundation, which blames excessive bureaucracy for many of the failings of the U.S. educational system, has compiled worrisome statistics:

  • “Two out of three eighth-graders can’t read proficiently. (NAEP, 2011) (NAEP, 2011)
  • Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders scored below proficient in math. (NAEP, 2011)
  • Seventy-five percent of students are not proficient in civics. (NAEP, 2011)
  • Nearly three out of four eighth- and 12th-grade students cannot write proficiently. (NAEP, 2012)
  • Some 1.1 million American students drop out of school every year. (EPE, 2012)
  • For African-American and Hispanic students across the country, dropout rates are close to 40 percent, compared to the national average of 27 percent. (EPE, 2012)
  • After World War II, the United States had the #1 high school graduation rate in the world. Today, we have dropped to # 22 among 27 industrialized nations. (OECD, 2012)
  • American students rank 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 industrialized countries.(OECD, 2012)
  • By the end of the eighth grade, U.S. students are two years behind in math compared to their peers in other countries. (OECD, 2009)
  • The U.S. ranks behind 13 other countries in terms of the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have completed some college coursework. (OECD, 2012)
  • American students tend to perform worse in math and science as they age, according to recent studies measuring fourth- and eighth-graders’ academic achievement against other industrialized nations. Gaps with high performing countries like South Korea and Singapore are widening. (TIMSS, 2012)
  • Less than half of American students – 46 percent – finish college. The U.S. ranks last among 18 countries measured on this indicator. (OECD, 2010)
  • Only one in four high school students graduate ready for college in all four core subjects (English, reading, math and science), which is why a third of students entering college have to take remedial courses. (ACT, 2011)
  • Only 4 percent of African American students and 11 percent of Hispanic students finish high school ready for college in their core subjects. (ACT, 2011)
  • Two-thirds of college professors report that what is taught in high school does not prepare students for college. (Alliance for Excellent Education)”

 Conclusion

It is abundantly clear that the U.S. has major problems facing its educational system.  Clearly, however, underfunding is not one of them.

Arctic threat ignored

It’s world of strange priorities. The President has proudly announced  that the U.S. is placing the Arctic Wildlife Refuge off limits to energy production.  At the same, the Commander in Chief has proposed nothing effective to dissuade Russia from militarizing much of the Arctic region.

On January 25, the White House disclosed: “Today, the Department of the Interior released a revised Comprehensive Conservation Plan to better sustain and manage the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — and President Obama took it a step further and announced his plans to ask Congress to designate the Coastal Plain and other core areas of the refuge as wilderness.”

The world, however, has started to take note of Moscow’s aggressiveness at the top of the world.

Last month, Russia Direct.org noted:  “By the end of 2014, Russia expects to complete the development of its Arctic military structure. A closed, Soviet-era base on Kotelny Island has reopened to safeguard Arctic shipping, and is intended to be the first in a chain of similar airbases that will open along Russia’s northern coastline. Radar installations at new military camps on Cape Schmidt and Wrangel Island have just begun operation in order to have full radar coverage of the Arctic by the end of this year.It is clear that Russia is prioritizing the replacement of its aging infrastructure in the High North and establishing a strong presence there as quickly as possible. In total, the country is building 10 radar stations, 13 airfields, a new Arctic combat training center in the Far East, and an air-ground firing range in the far north. In 2015, Russia is planning an airdrop operation with paratroopers in the Arctic and is projected to finish construction on five new icebreaking ships.”

Russia’s move comes despite a very clear policy among other nations not to militarize the region. Russia Direct reports: “On more than one occasion, NATO has stated its intention not to militarize the Arctic, despite increasing provocations from Russia. In a speech delivered in May 2013, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made it clear that, “The Arctic… rewards cooperation, not confrontation.”

Very real and very imminent strategic threats against the U.S. and its allies continue to be largely ignored.

The evidence is in: American government isn’t racist

The appropriate decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to not bring civil rights charges against the police officer in the Ferguson incident came as a deep disappointment to those who seek to profit by enhancing their careers with inflammatory rhetoric.

From the earliest moment, the objective evidence cast deep doubts against any malfeasance on the part of the police officer in question.  However, both the White House as well as the usual round of racial extremists irresponsibly sought to portray the matter as a case of official misconduct.  The motives were clearly venal.

Despite numerous political, journalistic, academic and other outlets who desperately attempt to portray America as a nation mired in official bias, there is little indication to confirm their hypothesis. Indeed, the very fact of a black President and attorney general, as well as numerous other members of government from minority backgrounds provides prima facie evidence that the U.S. is not a racist nation.

In a recently released study, the Pew Research Center found that the new Congress is the most diverse group ever to inhabit the legislative branch of government, with 17% being from nonwhite backgrounds. The report, however, seeking not to stray from politically correct orthodoxy, nevertheless notes that the figure is below the 38% of nonwhites that make up the U.S. population.

Iran: a growing international danger

Last week, the New York Analysis of Policy & Government reported on its exclusive interview with Reza Khalili on the growing danger from Iran in the western hemisphere, emphasized by this month’s assassination of an Argentinian  prosecutor who was about to present evidence of Iranian involvement in the 1992 bombing of an Israeli embassy.

The Argentinian incident was not isolated. Iran has used its proxy, Hezbollah, to conduct international terrorist activities. The Atlantic publication  in a 2014 report noted that in 2012 “Hezbollah operatives murdered six people—five tourists and their bus driver—and wounded many more in a bus bombing at the airport in Burgas, Bulgaria. The incident brought global attention to the extent of the group’s operations in Europe, far afield of its traditional home base of Lebanon, where it was founded with a mission to fight Israel. But today, despite a European Union ban on the group’s military wing, Hezbollah is just as strong on the continent as it was two years ago.”

The Center for Security Policy’s Menges Hemispheric Report Project reports that the Argentina-Iran issue is a symptom of a wider problem.

“… Iran continues to mislead the entire world with its public willingness to dialogue over its nuclear program. Likewise, the Iranians have refused, so far, to even acknowledge that they are trying to develop a military nuclear capability. Nobody would have seriously thought that the Iranians were going to acknowledge their role in the terrorist attacks in Argentina or agree to extradite those accused by the Argentinean justice ministry of having been complicit in the attack. Entertaining those thoughts is particularly ridiculous when the current Iranian Minister of Defense, Ahmad Vahidi is one of the accused. Furthermore, Mr. Vahidi, by virtue of his own position, has control over Iran’s regular armed forces, and, most importantly, the Revolutionary Guards, who at the same time oversee Iran’s terrorist operations abroad…”

It is clear that Iran’s military threat is not restricted to the Middle East. Several years ago, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that Tehran was actively developing Latin America as a base for anti-U.S. activities.  Before departing to a visit to Colombia, [then] Defense Secretary Panetta noted that “We always have a concern about, in particular, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and [their] efforts to expand their influence not only throughout the Middle East but also into this region…that relates to expanding terrorism.” In testimony before Congress in 2012, Southern Command Commander USAF General Douglas Fraser stated “Iran is very engaged in Latin America…they are seeing an opportunity with some of the anti-U.S.-focused countries within the region…”

  Rep. Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) bill  –the “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012“– was reported out by Congress’s House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2012. The measure was a successful attempt to force the Obama Administration to note the very real danger now presented by the Islamic Republic’s aggressive and rapidly growing military and diplomatic threat in Latin America. The legislation passed the House and Senate and was signed into law   by the President, but it remains unclear what substantive steps have been since taken.

     The legislation noted that Iran has:

  • Used its terrorist Hezbollah proxy force in the tri-border area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, to gain influence and power;
  • Built numerous  “cultural centers” and overstaffed embassies to assist its covert goals; and
  • Supported the activities of the terrorist group Hamas in South America.

The bill specified that Iran is complicit in numerous dangerous unlawful activities in addition to military threats, including drug trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forged travel documents, intellectual property pirating, and providing havens for criminals and other terrorists.

It also noted that sophisticated narco-tunneling techniques used by Hezbollah in Lebanon have been discovered along the U.S.-Mexican border, and Mexican gang members with Iranian-related tattoos have been captured.

    Evidence of Iran’s increasing boldness could be seen in the thwarted assassination of the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.

 A Growing Military Threat

   Some disagree with the extent of the threat posed by Iran. Several years ago, Vice President Biden stated that “I guarantee you Iran will not be able to pose a hemispheric threat to the United States.” That, however, appears to be a minority opinion.

  Reports from around the world have noted Tehran’s growing military presence in the Western Hemisphere.  Germany’s Die Welt described the Islamic Republic’s construction of intermediate range missile launch pads on Venezuela’s Paraguana Peninsula.

The Foundry’s Peter Brookes discloses that in return for economic favors, several South American nations, including Venezuela, Brazil, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador have been supportive of Tehran in diplomatic forums.

The threat is not confined to low-level tactics.  There is mounting concern that both nuclear and ballistic missile threats are emerging from Venezuelan-Iranian cooperation.

  The Tehran/Caracas axis, originally encouraged by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is particularly troubling.  Brookes reported that the two nations have a Memorandum of Understanding “pledging full military support and cooperation that likely increases weapons sales. One could easily see Tehran using Caracas as a stepping off point for attacking U.S. or other (e.g. Israeli) interests in this hemisphere or even the American homeland, especially if action is taken against Iran’s nuclear program.”  Brookes goes on to note that “There is concern that Iran and Venezuela are already cooperating on some nuclear issues.  There have been reports that Iran may be prospecting for uranium ore in Venezuela, which could aid both countries’ nuclear programs, should Caracas proceed…  While still prospective, of course, there is the possibility that Tehran, which has an increasingly capable missile program, could sell or help Caracas develop ballistic missiles capable of reaching American shores.”

 Iran’s interest in Latin America entails both its goals of threatening the United States and enhancing its nuclear capability.  In his testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Ilan Berman stressed Iran’s need for uranium ore.

 “Iran’s indigenous uranium ore reserves are known to be limited and mostly of poor quality…Cooperation on strategic resources has emerged as a defining feature of the alliance between the Islamic Republic and the Chavez Regime.  Iran is currently known to be mining in the Roraima Basin, adjacent to Venezuela’s border with Guyana.  Significantly, that geologic area is believed to be analogous to Canada’s Athabasca Basin, the world’s largest deposit of uranium.”

He notes that Iran “boasts an increasingly robust paramilitary presence in the region.  The Pentagon, in its 2010 report to Congress on Iran’s military power, noted that the Qods force, the elite paramilitary unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is now deeply involved in the Americas, stationing ‘operatives in foreign embassies, charities and religious/cultural institutions to foster relationships with people, often building  on socio-economic ties with the well-established Shia Diaspora,’ and even carrying on ‘paramilitary operations to support extremists and destabilize unfriendly regimes.”

 Skirting international sanctions is also a key interest for Tehran. Despite mounting evidence, however, Berman notes that Washington has “done little concrete to respond to it…a comprehensive strategy to contest and dilute Iranian influence in the Americas remains absent.  Unless and until such a strategy does emerge, Iran’s efforts-and the threats posed by them to American interests and the U.S. homeland-will only continue to expand.”

But is Iran truly prepared to attack the United States from Latin America?  The Director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, appears to believe so.  He has testified before the Senate Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere that “Iranian officials…are now more willing to conduct an attack on the United States.”

Roger F. Noriega, the former ambassador to the Organization of American States and former Assistant Secretary of State, notes that “Iranian officials have made no secret of the regime’s intention to carry its asymmetrical struggle to the streets of the United States and Europe.” As a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Noriega continues his review of Latin American issues. Through his ongoing research, he has concluded that:

  •  “Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez and Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are conspiring to wage an asymmetrical struggle against U.S. security and to abet Iran’s illicit nuclear program. Their clandestine activities pose a clear and present danger to regional peace and security.
  • Iran has provided Venezuela conventional weapon systems capable of attacking the United States and our allies in the region.
  • Iran has used $30 billion in economic ventures in Venezuela as means to launder money and evade international financial sanctions.
  • Since 2005, Iran has found uranium in Venezuela, Ecuador and other countries in the region and is conducting suspicious mining operations in some uranium-rich areas.Two terrorist networks – one home-grown Venezuelan clan and another cultivated by Mohsen Rabbani, a notorious agent of the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – proselytize, fund-raise, recruit, and train operatives on behalf of Iran and Hezbollah in many countries in the Americas.
  • Hezbollah conspires with drug-trafficking networks in South America as a means of raising resources and sharing tactics.
  • The Venezuelan state-owned airline, Conviasa, operates regular service from Caracas to Damascus and Teheran – providing Iran, Hezbollah, and associated narco-traffickers a surreptitious means to move personnel, weapons, contraband and other materiel.”

During his interview on the Vernuccio/Novak Report, Kahlili warned that Iran’s leadership was more dangerous than the west realized.  An objective review of the facts indicate that he is correct. In addition to its imminent nuclear capability, it has been reported by the Washington Free Beacon  that Iran would test its intercontinental missile prowess this year.

China takes more territory

As the U.S. Navy’s influence across the globe continues to dwindle due to inadequate resources, China is moving aggressively forward. As the New York Analysis of Policy & Government has previously noted, this January, for the first time since the end of World War 2, the U.S. does not have an aircraft carrier available for regular duty in the Eastern Pacific.

The latest example is the development of military facilities built on isolated reefs across the strategically located and intensely disputed Spratly Islands.  Beijing is expanding the reefs through landfill processes. Several other nations have claims to the reefs, and see China’s action as an invasion of their sovereign territory.

The Philippines, according to a report filed by Spacewar.com,  http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Philippines_slams_China_island_building_as_Beijing_hits_back_999.html have protested the move and warned that it is part of a larger Beijing effort to establish domination across the region. The Philippines have been previously victimized by China, which invaded the Philippines offshore Exclusive Economic Zone, taking possession of a resource-rich area. The U.S., despite a long history of alliance with Manila, failed to take either military or even diplomatic measures in response to the invasion, emboldening China to take further action such as this latest move.

A vast percentage of the world’s trade moves through the region, and establishing hegemony over the area would give Beijing a chokehold on the world economy. Establishing air or naval bases on the reefs also provides its armed forces with substantial strategic advantages, providing its naval forces with a dominating advantage. With each failure of the global community to respond to its moves, Beijing’s leadership is encouraged to engage in further aggression, noting that there is no cost to be paid for defying international laws and conventions.

A State of Disgrace

The recent federal indictment of New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver highlighted the mismanagement and corruption in what was once called the “Empire State.”

Once the most powerful state in the Union, New York, despite possessing favorable geographic assets, abundant natural resources, and a well- educated population, has been laid low by elected officials that are increasingly venal and ideologically obsessed.

Speaker Silver represents both vices. His brand of uncompromising left-wing ideology was a deterrent to business development and job creation. Further, according to the charges levied against him, he road-blocked many legislative items until he could gain a personal profit from them.

His example of unethical leadership set a tone that was followed throughout state government, extending even to blocking investigations of sexual harassment of female legislative employees.

Other branches of NY government failed to move effectively against Silver’s rising tide of corruption.  It has been noted that more New York elected officials leave office through death or indictment than through being voted out of office.

Those who rebelled against Silver’s reign faced career-ending punishment.  In an exclusive interview with this publication, former Assembly Member Stephen B. Kaufman, who unsuccessfully attempted to oust the Speaker, noted:

“During my tenure in the New York State Assembly, I actively opposed the reign of Speaker Sheldon Silver. I firmly believed that his lack of ethics and strong-arm tactics were an insult to the integrity of both the government and the people of New York State.

“It was obvious that my principled opposition would lead to dire consequences for my political career, and indeed, I did suffer substantially for my action.  Frankly, despite that, I remain proud of my battle against the Speaker, and would willingly make that sacrifice again.  No one should be more concerned for their career than for the people they were elected to serve.”

New York’s government has become a national embarrassment because of the corruption and self-interest of too many elected officials like Sheldon Silver. The challenges facing this state are extremely serious, and require honest and intelligent leadership that puts the needs of New Yorkers above venal personal gain.

Bringing Speaker Silver to justice is long overdue. I hope that it represents a solid move towards the development of truly representative government for the people of this great state.”

New York, like many other states, has problems that extend beyond corruption. Excessive taxes, burdensome regulations, and a failure to allow the exploitation of its natural resources due to pressure from environmental extremists have left the once wealthy state in a perilous financial condition.

Will increased federal spending on education truly produce substantial results?

Americans are dissatisfied with the disappointing results from their educational system. Many seek to resolve that issue by increased spending.

A number of salient questions must be raised regarding the concept, not the least of which is affordability.  With the nation’s debt doubling during the current Administration and now standing at over $18 trillion, with vast new amounts being added each year for the foreseeable future, is this new federal expense affordable at all?  With U.S. taxes already excessive, can the taxpayers be burdened further?

While the financial considerations are important, there is an even more relevant point: will increased spending provide improved results?

 Current federal spending, & disappointing results

Washington already spends a great deal on higher education.  A New America Foundation  report notes that “The federal government provided $30.2 billion in grant aid to help individuals pay for a higher education in the 2014-15 school year. Nearly all of the aid was directed to students from lower income families. Grant aid does not need to be paid back and generally may be used to pay for tuition, housing and other expenses at any institution of higher education that the recipient wishes to attend. The largest federal grant program is the Pell Grant program, followed by the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program. These two programs award grants based solely on a student’s financial status.”

CBS news study revealed that:

“The United States spends more than other developed nations on its students’ education each year, with parents and private foundations picking up more of the costs, an international survey released Tuesday found. Despite the spending, U.S. students still trail their rivals on international tests. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – which groups the world’s most developed countries – writes in its annual report that brand-new and experienced teachers alike in the United States out-earn most of their counterparts around the globe. But U.S. salaries have not risen at the same pace as other nations. The findings, part of a 440-page tome of statistics, put the United States’ spending on its young people in context.

“The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system – more than any other nation covered in the report.

“That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.”

Critics of government spending have noted that additional sending for education has not produced notable results.

According to Downsizing Government.org:

“Despite large increases in federal intervention since the 1960s, combined with large increases in funding by all levels of government, K-12 educational achievement has improved little. The most widely used measures of school achievement are scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which are available back to the early 1970s…The average NAEP mathematics score rose just two points to 306 in 2008 from 304 in 1973. The average NAEP reading score rose just one point to 286 in 2008 from 285 in 1971. These scores are on a 500-point scale.

“Other measures show similarly poor achievement, or at least a lack of improvement. For example, the percentage of students who had completed high school within four years of entering ninth grade is 75 percent today, about the same as it was in the mid-1970s.

“How have things fared under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act? It is difficult to isolate the effects of the law because numerous other changes might have affected recent school results, and no results with start and end dates closely reflecting the period during which NCLB has been in effect are available. With those caveats in mind, NAEP subject test (as opposed to long-term-trend data) and long-term data do not paint a particularly positive picture.

“On subject tests, there have been very small gains in fourth-grade mathematics, with the average score rising from 235 to 240 (on a 500-point scale) between 2003 and 2007. However, the average score on this test increased much faster in the period before NCLB was fully implemented, rising from 226 to 235 between 2000 and 2003. In reading, the average score dropped slightly in eighth grade, from 264 in 2002 to 263 in 2007.

“On the long-term-trends test, the closest start date to NCLB’s 2002 enactment is 1999, so it is very hard to gauge changes for NCLB’s time frame, much less the law’s effect on those results.  The greatest improvements between 1999 and 2008 were for 9-year-olds in mathematics, where scores rose from 232 to 243. Reading scores for that age also rose significantly, from 212 to 220. The final appreciable improvements were for 13-year-olds in mathematics, where scores rose from 276 to 281. For 13-year-olds in reading, in contrast, scores only rose a point, and for 17-year-olds reading and mathematics scores both dropped two points.

“Aside from looking at overall test scores, an examination of the effectiveness of particular federal programs indicates generally poor results. Consider Title I, the core federal education subsidy program. In a recent book, education policy experts Marvin Kosters and Brent Mast concluded the following:

“After more than thirty-five years of experience and numerous careful efforts to evaluate its performance, the evidence has failed to demonstrate that Title I programs have been systematically and significantly contributing to reducing disparities in achievement by improving the performance of its beneficiaries . . . Experiments by federal, state, and local authorities and major shifts in the emphasis of federal policy have all failed to bring systematic improvement. Or consider the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has a budget of about $1 billion. OII claims to be “a nimble, entrepreneurial arm of the U.S. Department of Education” making “strategic investments in innovative educational practices.”

The Eli & Edyth Broad Foundation, which blames excessive bureaucracy for many of the failings of the U.S. educational system, has compiled worrisome statistics:

  • “Two out of three eighth-graders can’t read proficiently. (NAEP, 2011) (NAEP, 2011)
  • Nearly two-thirds of eighth-graders scored below proficient in math. (NAEP, 2011)
  • Seventy-five percent of students are not proficient in civics. (NAEP, 2011)
  • Nearly three out of four eighth- and 12th-grade students cannot write proficiently. (NAEP, 2012)
  • Some 1.1 million American students drop out of school every year. (EPE, 2012)
  • For African-American and Hispanic students across the country, dropout rates are close to 40 percent, compared to the national average of 27 percent. (EPE, 2012)
  • After World War II, the United States had the #1 high school graduation rate in the world. Today, we have dropped to # 22 among 27 industrialized nations. (OECD, 2012)
  • American students rank 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading compared to students in 27 industrialized countries.(OECD, 2012)
  • By the end of the eighth grade, U.S. students are two years behind in math compared to their peers in other countries. (OECD, 2009)
  • The U.S. ranks behind 13 other countries in terms of the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have completed some college coursework. (OECD, 2012)
  • American students tend to perform worse in math and science as they age, according to recent studies measuring fourth- and eighth-graders’ academic achievement against other industrialized nations. Gaps with high performing countries like South Korea and Singapore are widening. (TIMSS, 2012)
  • Less than half of American students – 46 percent – finish college. The U.S. ranks last among 18 countries measured on this indicator. (OECD, 2010)
  • Only one in four high school students graduate ready for college in all four core subjects (English, reading, math and science), which is why a third of students entering college have to take remedial courses. (ACT, 2011)
  • Only 4 percent of African American students and 11 percent of Hispanic students finish high school ready for college in their core subjects. (ACT, 2011)
  • Two-thirds of college professors report that what is taught in high school does not prepare students for college. (Alliance for Excellent Education)”

 Conclusion

 It is abundantly clear that the U.S. has major problems facing its educational system.  Clearly, however, underfunding is not one of them.

Growing danger from Iran

Several days ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Reza Kahlili. “Reza Kahlili” is the pseudonym of a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who worked undercover as a CIA agent for several years. He frequently risked exposure and finally managed to leave Iran. His clandestine activities continued in Europe before he and his family  moved to the U.S. After the 9/11 attack, Reza Kahlili activated a handful of sources within Iran on the CIA’s behalf. He continues as an active voice for a free Iran and works toward ending the thugocracy of the mullah’s regime.

Reza is deeply concerned over the lack of U.S. resolve in the nuclear negotiations with Tehran, and believes that it is now inevitable that the mullahs will get the weapon and will engage in threatening actions soon after they do. He believes that Iran is planning an attack, conventional or otherwise, on Israel.  He also notes that Iran is increasing its military relations with several Latin American nations.

The U.S. had an opportunity to encourage regime change in this worrisome nation, but President Obama signaled his lack of support for the reformers when he declined to support the “green revolution,” the only Arab Spring movement the White House chose to ignore.

Iran has become increasingly allied with Russia and China, forming a powerful axis against the West.