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Bill Gates Calls on Lawmakers to Increase Funding for Education

By now, everyone in the world is well aware of the United States' current economic crisis. That said, there is another quiet crisis that has been plaguing the country for many years running. That crisis concerns education, and now a celebrated modern captain of industry is stepping in to demand that something be done.

Addressing the National Conference of State Legislatures in Philadelphia yesterday, according to The Seattle Times, technological titan Bill Gates advised lawmakers to put a renewed focus on strengthening the country's public education system. "We've been in an education crisis for decades," he said, noting not only that are U.S. students continuing to slip in global ranking, but that high school graduation rates have not improved for 40 years, with over 30% of all students -- nearly half of the minority student population -- dropping out. According to Gates, "success in this century will depend on how well America does what we have so far done very badly -- give low-income and minority students a world-class education."

Bill Gates may be famous for dropping out of college to form Microsoft, but he is no stranger to the vital importance of education and the depths of the nation's current education problems. As co-chair (along with his wife) of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, he has worked hard to expand education opportunities in the United States, from providing scholarships to funding research into new innovations like distance learning and community college improvements. Though the economic crisis demands immediate attention, Gates asserted that "difficult times can often spark needed reforms."

Those reforms come to the tune of $100 billion in federal stimulus money, which Gates suggests lawmakers put toward improving "the way schools are run," from rewarding high school and college graduation rates to offering incentives like financial aid and state funding to successful schools. "Adding financial incentives for graduation," Gates explained, "can encourage colleges to offer schedules that make more sense for students who have to work, courses and counseling that guide students toward specific job goals and more innovative use of technology, such as online lectures." Gates also suggested rewards and incentives for teachers who have proven themselves particularly inspiring and effective in the classroom, as well as the support of a Common Core State Standards Initiative which would improve education standards in many states.

According to the article, The Gates Foundation recently announced "a new post-secondary initiative with a goal of doubling the number of low-income students in the United States who graduate from college or other post high-school programs by 2025," sponsoring programs at technical & vocational schools to help make that goal a reality. With such dedicated and continuing interest in education, Gates has proved a powerful voice in education, and state legislatures might do well to listen and take note.

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