Invest in Education


Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country.

YPDA Hawaiʻi supports investments in early education, expansion of resources for undeserved communities, adequate funding for schools and salaries for teachers, an end to privatization and debt-free public college.


Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education. Inadequate education produces high costs for society in terms of public spending, crime, health, and economic growth. No country can afford to leave too many of its children behind and not to help them achieve the competencies needed for a self-fulfilled life in economic independence.

The "inheritance of educational status" is a global problem: people's education achievement largely depends on their socioeconomic background and the educational status of their parents. Although some countries provide more equal opportunities than others, it remains a challenge everywhere to improve the chances of those children lost to inadequate education.

But education budgets are limited, especially in times of economic downturn. Thus, it is worth comparing countries that have decreased and augmented their education budgets during the crisis—and evaluating the consequences of these decisions. If, on the one hand, investments in education are vital and, on the other hand, budget constraints restrict the available resources, investments should be as effective as possible. The question then is: where does it make sense to invest most in education?

Researchers generally agree that investing in early education has the highest returns. As the Nobel laureate James Heckman has shown, early investments enhance equal opportunities and higher achievement at the same time. And given the fact that early childhood education is often very costly for parents while primary school education is usually free, what should be the financial contribution that families make to the education of their children?

An alternative view of investments in education is that they should be higher where the problems are greatest: that would mean greater effort to tackle inadequate education and more money for programs for children who are lagging behind. Research shows that inadequate education is a problem for the whole of society—even the elites—and that everyone benefits from minimizing the number of low-educated people. Is it possible to invest in more quality in education? What form of qualification will produce the best teachers and pedagogues? And what mechanisms should be used to allocate resources?

Education remains one of the most important duties of any government: it is a public responsibility to provide access to high quality education for everyone. Therefore, public investments need to ensure a good educational infrastructure for lifelong learning. 

Intelligent financing concepts for education should be based on needs and specific background rather than distributing untargeted subsidies. New concepts of resource distribution require greater transparency. But what should this transparency look like? Will external accountability enhance quality or should there be more focus on capacity-building and self-assessment to improve the education system? How can financing mechanisms provide effective and sufficient investments in education even in times of crisis?

Finally, schools must live up to the promise of education as a human right and not a wealth-extraction site for profit-making. This means that schools must be publicly funded, not privatized, including at the college level. 

Advocates for private funds argue that such funding has not changed university values: that universities are still focused on the public goods of teaching and research, have maintained academic freedom protections and have no single external masters. And much of that is quite true. Privatization, they argue, has brought public universities closer to the aims of the knowledge economy as defined by both Democrats and Republicans over the last four decades, in which all value is said to be produced by the private sector. 

In this model, the tech sector, for example, would be given a free hand to innovate and to use universities as research satellites within the neoliberal framework. In the Democrats’ version of neoliberalism that advanced with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, and then became dominant with the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, privatization has seemed better than what universities had before. Privatization grew the tech economy and showed that universities meant business and profits. But philanthropy made only a few things better on campus, mostly for very high-status fields like theoretical physics or potential moneymakers like material science. In general, however, it neglected overall operations. In fact, the pursuit of private partnerships moves university funds away from non-market activities like construction and basic research—including basic STEM research. 

This system subsumes legislative budget cuts which are often blamed for problems at public univrsities; it compels them and it makes them worse. Dr. Christopher Newfield describes this system in the form of a decline cycle that is driven by privatization. Privatization isn’t a sideshow in the political economy; it’s a primary mode of concentrating wealth today, of shifting public assets into the private earning system. It increases the crisis of economic inequality and reduces our ability to address common social problems with common capabilities.

A Bachelor's degree has long been the entry ticket to the middle class. But universities have now split the middle class into unequal pieces. Graduates of elite, private schools do well, as do many graduates of public flagships like the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. As we move down the stratified ranks of the university system to the open access sector, the struggle increases. When public colleges don’t have the money to upgrade the capabilities of graduates, as is now the case, college skills become commodity skills. We increase our individual productivity and we do not, as we used to, pay for that incremental improvement of that investment in ourselves, either with money or with time, energy and intelligence.

The problem was brought home to the heart of Silicon Valley in 2017 when UC San Francisco started to outsource the exact Information Technology jobs for which the university prides itself on preparing its graduates.

Universities currently spend over 15 billion a year of their own money supporting the research of outside sponsors. The federal government gives various industries 14.3 billion to do research that is mostly about their own products. This industry money could be rerouted to universities instead, allowing them to spend internal funds on educational upgrades instead of research deficits. This would include crucial expenditures on the arts, humanities and social science research, fostering creativity and free thought—essential pillars of democratic intelligence.

2018 Bills we support


Additional Resources

The Economic Benefits of Investments in Early Education for Hawaii

Effective Investment in Education

Remaking the University