Listening to the presidential debates, all the candidates want to make America better than it is today. They want America to lead the world, not to follow. According to Ranking America, we do lead the world with the largest prison population at 2,217,000 prisoners followed by China at 1,657,812 and Russia at 646,085. We also lead the world with the highest divorce rate followed by the UK, and the most lawyers per person (one lawyer for every 265 Americans), followed by Brazil. But the one thing we do not lead the world in is education.
The fact that the United States is ranked the fourteenth best educational country in the world, according to Pearson, is a real wake-up call for all of us in the business world. South Korea is ranked first, followed by Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, the UK and Canada. Pearson found that the top-ranked countries offer teachers higher status in society and have a culture emphasizing education. Society's attitude about education and its underlying moral purpose seems to be stronger in the top-rated countries. And to think that just three decades ago, the U.S. was ranked first in the world, and if we could have hung on to that ranking, education would be a nonissue in this year's elections.
Coincidentally, in 1990, the USA ranked first in the world in four-year degrees attained, but today, America is ranked twelfth, with Australia being first and Iceland second. In 2015, Atlas reported the U.S. government spent $3.7 trillion, of which $154 billion was spent on educational accounts including the Department of Education, school nutrition programs, head start programs, student loan subsidies and veterans educational benefits. Education costs were 4.2% of the total budget. Over 100 other countries spent more than 4.2% of their total budgets on education. We are drifting further and further away from being the best in the world.
The connection between a good education and income is overwhelming. Today's working adults ages 25 to 34 with a bachelor's degree earn $46,900, while those with an associate degree earn $35,700. High school graduates earn $30,000 and the median is $22,900 for those without a high school diploma.
Business leaders recognize that US-based firms cannot compete without an educated populace and a skilled workforce, according to Harvard Business School. Of the 34 countries that signed the Convention for Economic Corporation and Development, US kids rank twenty-seventh in mathematics, seventeenth in reading and twentieth in understanding science. Our slide to be the greatest nation continues down a slippery slope with these rankings.
How can we reverse this slide? The easy answer is throw more money into education, but that is not the right answer. America is the greatest, most technologically advanced country in the world and we need to put this advantage to work in all schools both rich and poor. All of our schools need to let go of archaic practices and embrace technology to engage students, connect learners with educators and invest in redesigning traditional school models that embrace the Internet and technology. Our own kids are way ahead of us on this. When you see a three year old teaching her grandmother how to use the Internet, you know this new generation is ready for just about any technology our schools can throw their way. Once we wake up and realize that our kids can use modern technology to learn the sciences and math in an engaging, relevant and personalized learning experience, this newest generation will drive us back to being number one in the world. But don't lose sight that technology can only enhance our kids experience because the real keys to strong schools are great teachers and principals who can implement technology creatively and efficiently.
During this election year, we can't count on Congress to help our schools with additional funding in the near future. Our teachers take an average of $513 out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, food for hungry kids in their classroom, instructional materials and books for their students, so we cannot ask for more from these dedicated public servants. So it is up to concerned citizens, parents and business owners to make a difference for our kids. The nonprofit NPower has community corps skill-based volunteering program engaging technology professionals with our schools, so if you are not technologically inclined, you should donate to help them help others. Code.org believes that every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science, so donate to help this cause. And at DollarDays on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products to help teachers and classrooms enhance the experience of their kids, so please nominate your favorite teacher or school.
One or two business leaders are not going to make a difference in fixing our educational system. It is a country mindset that needs to permeate every school in every city like the attitude found in all the countries now beating us. Our past presidents have set national goals and we, as a country, have risen up to achieve these goals. Think of Roosevelt taking on the Great Depression or Kennedy telling America we will land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. During this upcoming national election, we need a candidate who truly wants to take America back to being the number one educational country in the world. We know that a better educated populace will create new businesses and create higher paying jobs that will lift our entire economy. Every business person I know wants that for their company and for their kids.