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THE STORY America has a chalkboard problem. Not enough kids are getting the early education they need, and a lot of the ones who graduate college have to give up part of every paycheck to someone named Sallie Mae. TELL ME ABOUT EARLY EDUCATION. The words ‘school choice’ used to mean private vs. public school. Now, there are also charter schools, voucher programs, magnet schools, and micro schools. Kids have more options, but the high school grad rates for low income and minority neighborhoods are still wayyyy behind white, wealthy areas. Not good. The US gov. has spent billions trying to fix this problem. WHAT’VE THEY DONE? Back in 2002, Dubya 43 signed off on No Child Left Behind. This law really ramped up the feds’ role in making sure kids can read good. It required states to test kids at certain grade levels in reading and math every year, with the aim of getting all classrooms to a “proficient level” by the end of 2014. The problem? A lot of people think this encouraged schools to teach to the test, instead of teaching to help kids learn. WHAT THEN? Common Core was supposed to be the band aid. It set reading and math standards for each grade level. States that use those standards get a very big check from the feds. Hence why pretty much every state got on board in some way. Fast forward to now, and some of them have said ‘yeah, nvm.’ Critics say Common Core is way too strict and doesn’t give teachers any breathing room to change it up based on their students. PS: None of this has helped boost the grad rates for minorities and low-income Americans. TELL ME ABOUT STUDENT LOANS. Helloooo, sticker shock. Most big-name colleges these days come with a six-figure price tag (plus things like books and board). Most people don’t have the cash on hand for all that. So the feds and banks chip in with student loans. Meaning, more than half of college grads walk out with a degree and a lot of debt. Congrats. HOW MUCH DEBT? $1.2 trillion in total. With an average of about $29k per grad. This is a drag on the economy since these grads put more of their paycheck toward paying off student loans, and less on things like a car, a house, or starting a business. Plus, it can take decades to pay off. So they’re also getting married later, and even putting off making babies. IS IT ALL WORTH IT? Verrrrry debatable. The cost of college has gone way up in recent years, but the average paychecks of grads have stayed the same. Still, most employers want to check the college degree box before saying ‘you’re hired.’ So grads are between a rock and a debt place. WHAT THE CANDIDATES SAY… Hillary Clinton…Common Core is the right direction but it needs a lot of help. And we’ve gotta make college more affordable by giving them the chance to pay back their loans in proportion to how much they’re making.

Donald Trump...Common Core is a “disaster,” and ed reform needs to come at the local level. Oh, and the government shouldn’t make money off student loans. theSKIMM Education in the US is a mess. And the last two presidents have tried – and mostly failed – to tackle the problem. Hence, why this election is so important.