Educational Challenges in the United States of America

Written by Dimitrios Chasouras & Jimena Villot Lopez 


The United States of America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a GDP of $25 trillion as of 2022.i However, as of 2020, the expenditure on education was 12.7% of the total government spending that year.ii This fiscal allocation shows the funding system of schools in the US, where the financial support is divided between government revenue and local resources, which bind school budgets to their respective districts. This funding model creates a large divide in the educational opportunities available to students. Schools in wealthier areas, with low-poverty percentages, benefit from significantly higher spending per student, in contrast with those in economically disadvantaged areas, which have lower budgets available. The effects of this gap regarding education are increasingly evident in students’ lives and school performance.

Another issue dealt with in this article is the constant presence of gun violence cases in schools, which is another of the biggest challenges faced by educational institutions in the United States. The addition of resource limitations and security concerns posed by gun violence cause a multifaceted threat to the well-being and safety of students all over the country. Both issues will be discussed separately, dealing with the complexities which surround the problem, along with potential measures to rectify them, or at least try to do so. It is important to remember that education is vital in a child’s development, and therefore it is paramount that these issues are taken seriously. Additionally, attention by government and local authorities is necessary to take into action comprehensive strategies (such as financial plans, security measures, and mental health support) to ensure the safety and well-being of all students, regardless of their socioeconomic or ethnic background.

Gun violence and consequences in schools

With around 50% of American households having at least one registered firearm and an exponential increase in gun manufacturing,iii gun violence incidents have been increasing drastically in the last couple of years, within households and publicly, including school premises. Incidents include suicides, assaults and school shooting, which has led to firearms being the leading cause of death among children and teens. 76% of school shootings have occurred by students who acquired guns from either their own households or relatives.iv Compared to other high-income countries, children between the age of 5-14 years old are 21 times more likely to be shot, while teens between 15-24 are 23 times more likely.v Additionally, around 4,000 children and teens (ages 0-19) are shot and killed annually, while 15,000 are wounded by firearms, totalling up to an average of 53 children being shot a day. Those statistics clearly outline a serious problem that plagues US adults and minors in their everyday lives. Gun violence incidents have long-lasting effects not just on the direct victims but the victims’ friends, family, and witnesses as well. Survivors of gun violence have to battle a multitude of psychological and mental issues, such as fear of death and PTSDvi which can lead to violent behaviour and abuse of drugs/alcohol.

To combat gun violence on school campuses, certain states have applied legislation permitting authorised gun possession on campus, even mandatory.vii Schools, colleges, and universities still have the final judgement on gun safety laws (e.g., authorised gun possession by school staff), but due to the increasing number of incidents, statehouses continue to promote such policies. Most attempts to decrease shootings in schools have been reactive, with other examples including eye-catching graphics, involvement and mentoring of adults and peers.viii Out of all, the one that has been suggested the most is community-based solutions, as they tend to be more tailored to the issues the state, school or district faces. Unfortunately, certain districts are unable to carry out such programs due to a lack of funding.

The outcomes of the above-mentioned policies and programs have not caused much change in gun violence incidents, and most students feel increasingly threatened and intimidated.ix Schools that have introduced gun safety programs or authorised gun possession or the presence of law enforcement have been burdened with additional financial costs that they are unable to pay. At the same time, students who go through shooter drills suffer from more depression, stress, anxiety, and the fear of death.

Some researchers suggest that stricter gun laws have opposite effects than the ones mentioned, for example, a decrease in the probability of missing a school day due to feeling unsafe, students carrying a weapon on campus, and students getting injured.x

The challenges of gun violence and the proposed solutions statistically have a disproportionate impact on students based on ethnic backgrounds.xi More specifically, black teens are 17 times more likely to die by homicide and 13 times more likely to be hospitalised for firearm assault compared to white teens, as well as Latinx, who are 2.7 times more likely to die by homicide.xii Such statistics are true even within the same states and cities, which creates unequal challenges for certain students compared to others. Policy decisions in place and disinvestments in certain parts of cities have left African-American and Latinx communities with a struggle to implement the above programs or counsel victims due to lack of resources, poverty and unemployment, which has led to an increase in gun violence in the last few years.xiii

Graph from CDC, Wonder.

Even when gun safety laws are implemented, African-American students tend to feel more threatened by the presence of guns and law enforcement on campus compared to others.xiv White students, although less likely to die of gun violence, have a higher risk of committing suicide when guns are in their household and/or on campus. Evidently, gun violence has created challenges for students across America, but different communities and ethnic groups differ in the type and extent of threat they perceive and experience. This has impacted overall school performance regarding attendance, test scores, graduation rates, feeling of safety, and perceived threat.

Consequences of lack of funding on the learning process

Teachers march in protest for education funding in Los Angeles. Photo by LaTerrian McIntosh on Unsplash

Since the 1800s in the United States, public schools have been primarily funded through local and state sources, the primary source of local funding being property taxes from individual community school districtsxv. This means that the money used to fund a school in a certain district comes from the property taxes paid by the owners of the houses in that same district. The advantage of this is that it ensures local control, which means the budget is allocated according to the specific needs and priorities of the schools in each district, however, it also has disadvantages.

Education funding largely depends on property taxes, resulting in disparities between schools in wealthy and disadvantaged areas. This funding model has left many schools struggling to provide the resources and opportunities that students need. Schools in wealthier neighbourhoods, or even those which have less low-income students attending, receive significantly more funding per student than those in high-poverty areas, with a more considerable number of low-income students. For example, as of 2020 in Illinois, Golfview Elementary School served 550 students, where 86% of them are considered low-income. On the other hand, Algonquin Lakes Elementary had 425 students, with reportedly less than 50% of them being low-income, and Algonquin received over $2,000 more than Golfview per student a yearxvi. This will mean that the educational needs of children in Algonquin have a higher likelihood of being met, improving their educational experience while leaving Golfview students with significant disadvantages.

Another one of the consequences of the funding disparities in the different areas is the inadequate compensation that educators receive in schools. To make ends meet, many teachers find themselves working multiple jobs. The demand for a higher livable wage is growing louder because committed educators need to be able to devote all of their energy to their work rather than worrying about their financial stability. It goes beyond just fair compensation.

Teacher shortages are causing larger problems in public schools. Wealthier schools, with students coming from high-income families, tend to hire more experienced, qualified teachers, which in turn costs more money. Since the pandemic, schools have been struggling to hire qualified teachers, and most of the low-income schools could not afford the salaries of experienced teachers, which has lowered the pool of potential applicants for teaching positions immenselyxvii. Due to this, some states have started making credential requirements lower, allowing for non-certified teachers to take over the vacant teaching positions, which affects children’s education. Christopher Blair, the former superintendent of Bullock County, Alabama, was quoted in 2022 stating that “when you have uncertified, emergency or inexperienced teachers, students are in classrooms where they are not going to get the level of rigour and classroom experiences.”xviii

The consequences of this shortage extend to overcrowded classrooms, which makes it difficult for teachers to provide individualised attention and support to students. In 2022, CNN went to a school outside of Phoenix where a teacher reported having to teach over 70 students in her biology classxix. This has negative consequences for the students, as it gets in the way of individualised attention, but also for the teacher, as it can cause burnout and stress to have to focus on so many students at one time. Furthermore, outdated textbooks and inadequate classroom supplies remain a prevalent issue in underfunded schools.

As can be seen from the previous analysis, the funding model for public schools has created a severe divide in the quality of education received by students all over the country. It offers advantages, such as local control and a constant revenue source for the communities; however, the disadvantages are more significant. Schools in wealthier areas or those with fewer low-income students receive substantially more funding per student than those in high-poverty regions. This financial discrepancy leads to unequal access to resources and opportunities, perpetuating educational inequalities.

Another pressing issue that arises from the lack of funding is inadequate compensation for teachers, which means they are forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, hindering their ability to focus all their energy on teaching. This will mean that fewer of the most experienced teachers will choose to work in such circumstances and only choose the wealthier schools or get jobs in other fields. This means that schools with a more significant number of high-poverty students will struggle to maintain qualified teachers. Along with overcrowding of classrooms, outdated textbooks and inadequate supplies, these issues collectively pose a severe challenge to students’ educations in United States public schools. Bridging the funding gaps and addressing teacher shortages are imperative steps toward ensuring that every child has access to a quality education, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

In fact, researchers have debated the value of increasing educational funding. However, recent research has found that when funding is directed towards high-poverty schools, and this money is used for important purposes, such as experienced teachers, social workers, or programs to address students’ academic needs, it can greatly boost student successxx


It can be considered that gun violence and funding disparities in schools are interrelated issues in terms of hindering students’ education for several reasons. Firstly, when schools do not have the necessary budget to afford to hire the necessary staff, such as educators, it can also mean no security staff to control who is able to go in and out of the school. However, this may also include social workers, school psychologists and staff designed to support the students and aid their mental health protection after dangerous situations which may occur. Additionally, in the first section, it was discussed how one of the discussed methods to protect against gun violence in schools was considering arming teachers with weapons in case of emergency. This can be damaging for several reasons, as it may create an unsafe environment for children at school and, at the same time, may discourage teachers from working at schools in which they have to carry guns for protection.

This is also related to district division because community and socioeconomic factors may indirectly affect the safety of the schools. Schools in economically disadvantaged districts or neighbourhoods may face additional challenges, including higher crime rates and exposure to community violence.

It’s important to emphasise that educational funding and division of resources may play a role in addressing school safety and gun violence; however, it is only part of the solution to the problem. Some other strategies to prevent gun violence include the support of mental health by advisors or counsellors in schools, anti-bullying efforts and community engagement. Additionally, whether locally or regionally, district leaders and politicians must address the underlying factors which may lead individuals to resort to violence and adopt responsible gun control measures.

Education is one of the most important elements of a child’s development, and measures which hinder or impede an appropriate education for students in public schools must be addressed. Ensuring a safe and secure school environment is a complex challenge, and it requires serious commitment all over the country.


i World Bank Data (2023) GDP (current US$) – United States. The World Bank.

ii World Bank Data (2023) United States. The World Bank.

iii Mitchell, T. (June 2017). The demographics of gun ownership in the U.S. Pew Research Center.

iv Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (July 2023). How can we prevent gun violence in American schools? Everytown Research & Policy.

v Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (May 2019). The impact of gun violence on children and teens. Everytown Research & Policy.

vi ibid.

vii RAND. (2020, April). The effects of laws allowing armed staff in K–12 schools. RAND Corporation.

viii OJJDP. (n.d.). Section VII: Education Initiatives and Alternative Prevention Strategies. (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Report)

ix Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (2020, December). The danger of guns on campus. Everytown Research & Policy.

x Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (May 2019). The impact of gun violence on children and teens. Everytown Research & Policy.

xi Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (July 2023). How can we prevent gun violence in American schools? Everytown Research & Policy.

xii Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (May 2019). The impact of gun violence on children and teens. Everytown Research & Policy.

xiii ibid.

xiv Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (2020, December). The danger of guns on campus. Everytown Research & Policy.

xvFindLaw Team (June 2016) Education Funding: State and Local Sources. FindLaw. https://www/

xvi Mathewson T.G (October 2020) New data: Even within the same district, some wealthy schools get millions more than poor ones (The Hechinger Report).

xvii Richman, T & Crain, T.P (October 2022) Uncertified teachers filling holes in schools across the South (The Hechinger Report).

xviii Lurye, S & Griesbach, R (September 2022) Teacher shortages are real, but not for the reason you heard (The Hechinger Report).

xix Wolf, Z.B (September 2022) Crises converge on American Education (CNN Politics).

xxMathewson T.G (October 2020) New data: Even within the same district, some wealthy schools get millions more than poor ones (The Hechinger Report).

USA: 11 facts about high school dropout rates

Written by Néusia Cossa

We used to see social media, such as YouTube or Instagram, shaping dropouts, like how intelligent people get their lives together and become successful businessmen and women. Sometimes, this may be the case. Nevertheless, in reality, things are not so simple; high school dropouts have negatively affected society.

  1. Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone.

That is a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day[1]. The status dropout rate represents the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds not enrolled in high school and lacking a high school credential (either a diploma or an alternative certification such as a GED certificate). In 2020, there were 2.0 million status dropouts between 16 and 24, and the overall status dropout rate was 5.3 per cent. This Fast Fact estimates status dropout rates using the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a household survey that covers the civilian noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons in the military and persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities).

The status dropout rate varied by race/ethnicity in 2020. The status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds (2.4 per cent) was lower than the rates for Black (4.2 per cent) and White (4.8 per cent) 16- to 24-year-olds, and all three rates were lower than the rate for those who were Hispanic (7.4 per cent). The status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds was also lower than that for those of Two or more races (6.5 per cent) and American Indian/Alaska Native (11.5 per cent). The rate for those who were Black was lower than the rate for those who were American Indian/Alaska Native.

2. According to David Silver (2008), about 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time.

Neild and Balfanz (2006) analyzed the School District in Philadelphia, showing that academic experiences play a critical role in students’ lack of persistence toward high school graduation. Furthermore, many students fall off the graduation track years before entering 9th grade. Attendance rates and course failure in math and English during 8th grade were found to have strong predictive power for high school completion.  In another study, Balfanz, Herzog & Mac Iver (2007) found that using attendance, behaviour, and course failure in math and English as key predictive indicators, they identified over half of the district’s future dropouts as early as the 6th grade.  Hence, the transition into the high school setting at 9th grade can push students who have been struggling academically and/or disengaged for years off the path to graduation.

In summary, there is much evidence that high school completion and post-high school educational status are not a function of high school educational experiences alone. In some cases, early educational experiences can predict the high school track in which students are assigned, influencing educational outcomes (Gonzalez et al., 2003; Oakes, 1985/2005).  Education is a cumulative process in which earlier academic experiences inform high school academic success. Nevertheless, a more precise understanding of early school factors influencing high school performance is needed to formulate pre-high school interventions to improve high school completion rates.  

3. The U.S., which had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries[2]

    The dropout rate has fallen 3% from 1990 to 2010 (12.1% to 7.4%). Whereas, in 2020, the overall status dropout rate was higher for male 16- to 24-year-olds than for female 16- to 24-year-olds (6.2 vs. 4.4 percent). Status dropout rates were higher for males than females among Hispanics (8.9 vs 5.9 per cent) and Blacks (5.6 vs 2.9 per cent). However, the status dropout rates for males and females did not measurably differ for those of two or more races, White or Asian (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).

    4. The percentage of graduating Latino students has significantly increased. In 2010, 71.4% received their diploma vs. 61.4% in 2006. However, Asian-American and white students are far more likely to graduate than Latino and African-American students.

    5. More U.S. high school students than ever are graduating on time, according to new information released by the research arm of the U.S. Education Department.

    According to the report, the percentage of students who graduated from high school within four years of starting ninth grade in the 2006-2007 school year hit a record high. “What we see is an increase,” Jack Buckley, who directs the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, told The Huffington Post. Of the 4 million students who started school in 2006-2007, 3.1 million — or 78.2 per cent — graduated with a regular or advanced diploma in the 2009-2010 school year. That is an increase of more than two percentage points[3].

    Photo by Redd F on Unsplash

    6. A high school dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate over his lifetime. And almost a million dollars less than a college graduate.

    Earnings increase with educational level. Adults aged 25 to 64 who worked at any time during the study period earned an average of $34,700 annually. Average earnings ranged from $18,900 for high school dropouts to $25,900 for high school graduates, $45,400 for college graduates, and $99,300 for workers with professional degrees (M.D., J.D., D.D.S., or D.V.M.). Except for workers with professional degrees who have the highest average earnings, each successively higher education level is associated with an increase in earnings.

    Work experience also influences earnings.  Average earnings for people who worked full-time year-round were higher than average for all workers (including those working part-time or for part of the year). Most workers worked full-time and year-round (74 per cent).  However, the commitment to work full-time, year-round, varies with demographic factors, such as educational attainment, sex, and age.  For instance, high school dropouts (65 per cent) are less likely than people with bachelor’s degrees (77 per cent) to work full-time and year-round. Historically, women’s attachment to the labour force has been more irregular than men’s, primarily due to competing family responsibilities.7 Earnings estimates based on all workers (which includes part-time workers) include some of this variability.  Yet, regardless of work experience, the education advantage remains (Jennifer Cheeseman Day and Eric C. Newburger, 2002:2-3)[4].

    7. In 2010, 38 states had higher graduation rates. Vermont had the highest rate, with 91.4% graduating. Furthermore, Nevada had the lowest, with 57.8% of students graduating.

    Based on data collected from the states for the Class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78 per cent of students across the country earned a diploma within four years of starting high school. The graduation rate was last at that level in 1974, officials said.

    Students in Maryland and Virginia had higher graduation rates than the national average — 82.2 per cent and 81.2 per cent, respectively.

    The District had a lower graduation rate than all but one state, with 59.9 per cent of its students graduating on time. However, it is not unusual for major cities to experience a higher dropout rate and lower graduation rate than states. One study found that the Class of 2005 graduation rate in the nation’s 50 largest cities was 53 per cent, compared with 71 per cent in the suburbs.

    High school graduation rates are one measure of school success, and educators and policymakers have been trying for decades to stem the number of U.S. students who drop out of high school.

    Notable in 2010 was the rise in Hispanic students who graduated on time, with a 10-point jump over the past five years to 71.4 per cent. Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, making up more than 50 million people, or about 16.5 per cent of the U.S. population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. One in four pupils at public elementary schools is Hispanic.

    Graduation rates improved for every race and ethnicity in 2010, but gaps among racial groups persist. Asian students had the highest graduation rate, with 93 per cent finishing high school on time. White students followed with an 83 per cent graduation rate, American Indians and Alaska Natives with 69.1 per cent and African Americans with 66.1 per cent (Lyndsey Layton, 2013)[5].

    8. It is concerning to know that nearly 2,000 high schools in the United States have a graduation rate of less than 60%.

    More than half the African American students in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania attend high schools where most students do not graduate on time, if at all. By contrast, the percentage of White students attending weak-promoting power high schools in these states is below the national average. As a result, African American students in these states are up to 10 times more likely to attend a high school with meagre graduation rates than White students. Even more striking gaps can be found by looking at the high schools with the worst promoting power in Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania (Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters, 2004:15).

    9. These “dropout factories” account for over 50% of the students who leave school every year.

    According to a new study, after decades of flat-lining graduation rates, states finally have started to turn around or close hundreds of so-called “dropout factory” schools and recover some of the thousands of students who had already given up.

    The Washington, D.C.-based policy firm Civic Enterprises, whose 2006 report, “The Silent Epidemic,” helped galvanize state and federal attention on high school dropouts, reported that most states had gained momentum in improving graduation rates but will need to improve at least five times faster to meet a national goal of 90 per cent of students graduating on time by 2020.

    The study suggests that a combination of state economic concerns and federal accountability pressure has helped drive the national graduation rate from 72 per cent in 2001 to 75 per cent in 2008, the most recent federal graduation estimate. Black, Hispanic, and Native American students made some of the most significant gains, but more than 40 per cent of those students still did not graduate on time as of 2008 (Sarah D. Sparks, 2010)[6].

    Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

    10. 1 in 6 students attend a dropout factory. 1 in 3 minority students (32%) attend a dropout factory, compared to 8% of white students.

    High schools with the worst promoting power are concentrated in a subset of states. Nearly 80% of the nation’s high schools that produce the highest number of dropouts can be found in just 15 states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas)[7].

    11. In the U.S., high school dropouts commit about 75% of crimes.

    With high youth crime rates, there seem to be other effective alternatives to combat youth violence; however, America continues to build more facilities to detain at-risk youth. “That is one of the questions that we raised with this special over and over again. Our economy is stalled. The prison industry is the fastest-growing industry in America. Why? Because it is a business, we incarcerate more people in the nation than any other country in the world. Like everything else, it is all about money,”. “The lives of these children are dependable, and it is sad because it costs a whole lot less money to educate these kids than it does to incarcerate these kids” (Tavis Smiley)[8].

    A part of society portrays dropouts positively, leading to chasing your dream because school is tedious and expensive, as some may say. However, dropouts indeed have significant effects on society and economy that are not very helpful. Therefore, people should proceed with their education for the sake of the country’s national interest.  

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    Silencing Minds: The Violation of Basic Human Rights Through School Censorship

    Written by Leticia Cox

    Efforts by US states to ban school curricula offering historically accurate accounts of racism in the United States is an attack on fundamental human rights and the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

    Image by Leticia Cox.

    Education is critical in shaping individuals’ understanding of the world and fostering a just and equitable society. Denying students access to accurate and comprehensive information about racism undermines their ability to grasp the full extent of historical injustices and perpetuates systemic discrimination.

    “The May 3 Day of Action in support of the freedom to learn underscores that children and adults have fundamental rights to education and to access accurate information,” said Alison Parker, deputy US director at Human Rights Watch. “Attacks on education are attacks on US democracy because they ban access to the information that motivates voting and political participation.”

    Historically accurate accounts of racism provide students with a broader perspective on the development of American society, shedding light on the experiences of marginalised communities and the struggles they have faced. These curricula examine topics such as slavery, segregation, and the civil rights movement, and they are essential for a complete understanding of US history. By learning about the historical roots of racism, students can better comprehend the current social and racial inequalities.

    ‘One of the ten amendments of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, gives everyone residing in the United States the right to hear all sides of every issue and to make their own judgments about those issues without government interference or limitations. The First Amendment allows individuals to speak, publish, read and view what they wish, worship (or not worship) as they wish, associate with whomever they choose, and gather to ask the government to make changes in the law or correct the wrongs in society.’ 

    Banning the teaching of these subjects not only distorts history but also eternalises a cycle of ignorance and prejudice. Students shielded from confronting the truth about racism are deprived of the opportunity to develop empathy and critical thinking skills necessary for active participation in a diverse and inclusive society. By denying students access to accurate information, these bans undermine the principles of academic freedom and hinder the development of a well-informed citizenry.

    A crowd protesting then U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in 2017. Photo by Ted Eytan.

    Furthermore, such bans on teaching accurate accounts of racism affect marginalised communities and perpetuate systemic inequalities. People of colour, who have historically been the victims of racism, have a right to see their experiences and contributions acknowledged in the curriculum. By erasing or downplaying the history of racism, these bans silence marginalised voices and contribute to a culture of exclusion and inequality.

    The right to education is a fundamental human right recognised internationally. It encompasses not only the access to education but also the content and quality of education. States should provide an inclusive and comprehensive education that enables students to understand and respect the diversity of human experiences. Banning historically accurate accounts of racism contradicts this obligation and undermines the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

    Efforts to ban curricula offering historically accurate accounts of racism must be challenged and resisted. Educators, activists, and advocates must defend the right to education, promote inclusive curricula, and ensure that students have a genuine and nuanced understanding of history. By doing so, we can strive to create a society that confronts its past, acknowledges its flaws, and actively works towards a more just and equitable future for all.