msnbc | November 30, 2012
>>> on the ground in pennsylvania trying to build public support for his tax proposal. but that's just one part of the fiscal cliff debate. the other side of this, the massive spending cuts that have now educators ringing the alarm. they warn of increased class sizes, the elimination of after-school and summer school programs, libraries could close, all this as the u.s. tries to close an achievement gap . joining me now to continue our education nation conversation, world-renowned educator dr. steve perry , also host of tv one's "save my son." steve, it's great to have you here. the secretary of education , arne duncan , has said that 9 million students would be affected by the cuts including nearly 2 million that are already living in this country in poverty. when we talk about special education needs for the kids of our country, we're essentially about to take away resources from the students that need it most. however, we're not talking enough about that.
>> one of the reasons why there's even a conversation about cuts is not so much because there's less money coming in, it's because of so much money going out. where we spend the most amount of money in education is on personnel. me and the benefits that you pay us. many of us receive in some cases 30% to 50% of our salary over in benefits. and so we keep paying more money for a service that's not better. one of the challenges that we have as public educators is to come up with a better performing school system , not just to say to the public and taxpayers, we want you to pay us more money.
>> all right. so there was this recent report out of harvard that found that students in latvia, chile, brazil are making academic gains three times faster than american kids. our students ranking 5th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. now, the president does not support education cuts. but this is what congress, you know, comes up with, cutting in places where we need it most. the seeds of our future are our kids and their education . what does this say about our priorities?
>> our priorities are focused on the adults in the schools and not the children in the schools. we want to make sure when we're talking about education reform , we want to make sure that it's reform around the edges as opposed to creating a better school system . the a.c.t. which last year became the most-taken test found that 75% of all children in america who took the test, in fact, were not college ready. that's not 75% of the kids in the hood. that's not 75% of black and latino kids that listen to hip-hop, that's abercrombie & fitch white kids in the suburbs not ready to go on to college. we need to make sure that if we're going to pay a world- class cost for education , we need to get a world- class product of education .
>> so for parents out there that are listening to this and this is perking up their ears, and maybe they weren't thinking that this was going to truly affect them and their kids, what do you think the biggest message to them is?
>> well, you're not just parents, you're taxpayers. and we work for you. and you need to hold our feet to the fire as public educators. i'm a public school principal. and in order for us to be more effective, we need to make sure that we're not just spending capriciously, hiring more people, or paying the people that we have more without greater results. we need to have higher accountability. parents have every right and obligation to make sure that if they're sending their child to school for one day, they should be one day smarter.
>> dr. steve perry , it's great to have you here, as always. thank you, sir.