While natural resources have historically been important to our province, Newfoundland and Labrador’s true great resource is its people. Education has always affected our economy, but it’s more important than ever in the current information age.

Without a focus on innovation and increased skills, how can we expect to diversify our economy?

We need to invest in education. Smaller classes within our education system produce long-term economic gains.

It’s not hard to see why:

  • A cost-benefit analysis found that reducing K-3 class size from 25 to 20 students had an internal rate of return of almost 18% – and the effects were long-lasting, showing a 2.3% earnings increase per student from ages 27-42. (Quarterly Journal of Economics)
  • One of the most well-known, large-scale experiments on class size estimated that the real internal rate of return for reducing class size from 22 to 15 students is around 6% – the economic gains and savings produced by smaller classes were estimated to be double the cost. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
  • Small-class benefits have been found to be even larger for students from low-income families, and have been linked to better performances on a variety of outcomes with economic impacts: juvenile criminal behaviour, teen pregnancy, high school graduation, college completion –even savings behaviour and homeownership. (National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado)

We can’t ignore the gap between our resources for primary and secondary education and our province’s economic needs.

Class sizes within our K-12 education system should not be based on short-term budgets – class size decisions need to be based on the evidence from long-term cost-benefit analyses.

By assigning “just a few more students” or even “just one more high-need child” to any given teacher or student assistant, we aren’t saving money – we’re just passing an even bigger cost along to our social and economic systems.

The breadth and depth of the benefits that can come from smaller classes can save our province money in many ways, since education level has positive effects on a variety of economic factors.

The benefits of smaller class sizes are even bigger for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In Canada, 85% of income assistance (including welfare and other support) is spent on the 34% of Canadians who have not completed high school. Yet, even from grades K-3 alone, attending small class sizes increases the odds of graduating high school by 80%. (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); Journal of Educational Psychology)

Looking at the evidence, it’s hard to argue that cuts to education are a “cost-saving” measure.

Even in 1997, two economists at the University of Chicago saw the need for concentrating public investment on K-12 education:

“Early investments make subsequent investments effective… In the long run, significant improvements in the skill levels of American workers, especially workers not attending college, are unlikely without substantial improvements in primary and secondary education… We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults.”

Every time class sizes increase, it limits our education system’s ability to maximize the future income or achievements of every child. We can’t afford to miss out on the next innovators and entrepreneurs sitting in our classrooms right now.

Education affects our economy.

Investing in education saves money in net economic gains.

And creating classrooms that promote a better career path for every student…

 

Creates a big pay-off, for every single one of us.

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