The states and local authorities are largely responsible for the school system in the United States. Only a small part is financed with federal funds. The quality of teaching varies greatly. Since property taxes are often an important local source of income, public schools can be excellent in affluent suburbs and poor in the slums of big cities.
The federal authorities may exert a significant influence on the school system in some respects. In the 1960s, it was the new federal civil rights laws that paved the way for the integration of black and white children in the same schools across the country. George W Bush (President 2001-2009) initiated a program – “No Child Left Behind” – that would improve the quality of education. Among other things, Barack Obama (2009–2017) sought to find ways to achieve a better quality of education. At the same time, the budget problems (see Financial overview) in the early 2010s hit hard on the most needy when support programs for students with learning difficulties were cut.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of United States, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
The rules for schooling vary. Most children go to voluntary preschool (kindergarten) for at least one year) before starting first grade, usually at the age of six. School compulsory education ceases in some states at 16, but a kind of expectation that everyone should go to school for twelve years is reflected in the fact that the person who does not finish high school (corresponding to high school) is called dropout.
Elementary school elementary school (or grammar school etc) usually lasts for five or six years and is followed by middle school or junior high school, otherwise it lasts for eight years. High school usually consists of four years. The proportion of young people completing upper secondary school has increased over a number of years, reaching 90 percent of all 25-year-olds for the first time in 2017.
The vast majority of students attend toll-free publicly funded schools through high school. A small but rapidly growing proportion of them are charter schools. The number of pupils in free schools doubled between 2008 and 2014, but the free schools are hotly debated and the resistance is great not least among the teachers’ unions. The one of Donald Trump’s appointments that was closest to being stopped in the Senate when he took office as president in 2017 was Education Minister Betsy DeVos, a disputed high school supporter.
Around ten percent of children attend paid private schools, the majority of which are run by religious groups, not least the Catholic Church, and three percent receive teaching at home.
Higher education begins with four years of studies in varied subjects, which provide breadth rather than depth. It provides an academic undergraduate degree, usually Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc). A higher academic education at the university’s graduate schools can provide a specialized degree (doctor, lawyer, etc.) or a master’s degree, (MA or MSc), which after a few years of education can be followed by a doctorate (PhD).
The United States is among the countries in the world that have the highest proportion of college-educated adults. Two-thirds of those graduating from high school go directly to college and 35 percent of everyone in the 25- to 45-year age group has at least one undergraduate degree, which means four years at college.
Teaching at the highest academic levels is usually regarded as the best in the world. The United States leads the international scientific development and well-known and prestigious universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Masschusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkley invest considerable resources in research. A large number of university students read at one of the large state universities, which usually bear names after the state. The cost of university studies varies. It is usually more expensive to study at universities run by private foundations and which depend on private donors to maintain the standard of teaching and research. The annual fee at the best and most prestigious universities amounts to several hundred thousand kronor, but can sometimes be partly financed with scholarships and various forms of student support. More and more students are financing their university studies with loans.
- Educationvv: Provides school and education information in United States, covering middle school, high school and college education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
95.1 percent (2016)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
13.5 percent (2014)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
13.5 percent (2014)
Terrorist act in California
A married couple shoots 14 people to death and seriously injures 22 during a Christmas party at a health facility in San Bernardino, California. The police kill the perpetrators. It later turns out that the couple has some links to Islamist terror networks and President Obama describes the attack as a terrorist act.
Syrian refugees are being investigated
The House of Representatives adopts a large majority bill to increase the scrutiny process of Syrian refugees seeking refuge in the United States. It also wants to stop President Obama’s plans to host 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. The terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13 (see France-Modern history) have led some Americans with Republican Donald Trump to advocate a reduced refugee reception due to fear of new terrorist acts.
They threaten immigration decisions
A higher court orders a ruling in the White House to stop the plan to protect over five million migrants who immigrated illegally from being deported (see November 2014). The plan has not yet been implemented. Texas and another 25 states have gone to court because they believe President Obama and his administration bypassed Congress and the Constitution by using a so-called executive order to enforce the reform.
Incident in the South China Sea
China criticizes the United States for allegedly violating China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea. According to Beijing, the intrusion occurred when the USS Lassen vessel came closer than 12 nautical miles to reefs and copper in the Spratly archipelago, which China claims as well as the Philippines, Malaysia and two other Southeast Asian countries. The United States claims that the ship was on international water and that it carried out an operation as part of the country’s navigation freedom program. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter explains to his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan that the US will continue with this type of shipping in the South China Sea.
New President in the House of Representatives
Republican Paul Ryan is appointed new Speaker of the House of Representatives. Former President John Boehner announced in September that he would step down after being pressured by internal struggles within the Republicans and facing harsh criticism from the party’s right wing.
A settlement is reached in Congress on the state budget until 2017. The agreement again prevents a situation where the United States would have to suspend its payments and shut down federal operations such as the fall of 2013 (see October 2013). In addition, additional funds equivalent to $ 80 billion are released by raising the loan ceiling. These funds can, among other things, be put on defense and a number of other areas. However, the congress and the White House still have to agree on the different areas to be prioritized and which organizations to support. Among other things, conservative Republicans demand that resources for the Planned Parenthood organization be withdrawn because of its abortion-related actions.
Continued military presence in Afghanistan
President Obama abandons plans to repatriate the nearly 10,000 American soldiers present in Afghanistan in 2016. Now, the President announces that 5,500 soldiers will remain as his term expires in early 2017. The reason stated is to help the Afghan the government to resist the growing threat from the Taliban in the country.
Obama presents climate plan
President Obama announces a climate and energy plan, the Clean Power Plan. The purpose is to counteract climate change and impose restrictions for the first time on carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants in the United States. According to the plan, the use of fossil-free energy sources will be increased and investments made in energy-saving measures. Obama calls the plan the most important step to date in the United States to counter climate change.
New sanctions on Russia
The US extends sanctions on individuals related to the crisis in Ukraine, including port operators in the Crimean Peninsula and a Russian gas company, the Ministry of Finance announces. Enlargement follows similar decisions from the EU and Canada. The purpose is to pressure the Ukrainian warring parties to implement peace-building measures.
Diplomatic relations with Cuba
The diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States are formally resumed when the countries’ embassies reopened after half a century. However, the US trade embargo on Cuba is still in force and restrictions on US citizens to travel to Cuba remain. To lift the trade embargo against Cuba requires a vote in the US Congress.
The army announces that 40,000 soldiers will be released in the next two years in order to save money. The army will also dispose of 17,000 civilian employees.
HD-yes to same-sex marriage
In a ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage should be legal throughout the United States.
Death shootings in church
17th of June
Nine African Americans are shot to death in a Methodist church in Charleston, South Carolina, including a pastor who is also a state senator. The perpetrator who was arrested the day after a 21-year-old white man who stated that he wanted to start a “fast war”. He was later sentenced to death by a federal court, for hate crimes.
Laws against data monitoring
After a long, heated debate in Congress, the Senate finally approves a new law that will stop the intelligence service NSA’s collection of so-called metadata, that is, data and telecommunications traffic containing telephone numbers and call lengths. The Senate approved the so-called Freedom Act with votes 72-67, while the Anti-Terrorism Act Patriot Act was repealed.
Claws after the death of African Americans
An emergency permit is introduced in Maryland and the National Guard is deployed to deal with violent riots in the city of Baltimore. The protests erupt in part of Baltimore after a young black man died after his spine was severely injured in prison. Six police officers have been suspended from their jobs while the Justice Department is investigating the incident. During the unrest, buildings are set on fire, businesses are looted and police are attacked.
New Minister of Justice
Loretta Lynch takes over as Minister of Justice. She becomes the first black woman on this record. Representative Eric Holder, who announced his departure as early as September 2014, was the first African American Justice Minister.
Historical meeting of Cuba-USA
President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Rúul Castro hold an official meeting in conjunction with a regional summit in Panama. This is the first time that the leaders of both countries have officially met in over half a century.
Troops left in Afghanistan
President Obama announces that the withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan will be temporarily halted given the troubled situation in the country. A strength of about 9800 men will remain in the country during the year.
Israel criticism against Iran agreement
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharply criticizes US Congress for the agreement with Iran that the US is negotiating with several countries at present. The agreement on Iran’s nuclear program will not lead to a change in Iran’s current strategy and Iran is therefore “a threat to the entire world,” said Netanyahu, who was invited to speak in Congress by House Speaker Republican John Boehner. Obama, in turn, criticizes Netanyahu for failing to come up with an alternative solution to the Iran problem and also refuses to accept him in the White House, citing the imminent Israeli parliamentary elections. Israel’s actions not only lead to deteriorating relations with the White House, its actions are also condemned by the Democrats in Congress. Several of them refrain from attending the speech,
Veto against disputed oil pipeline
President Obama, as expected, vetoed the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This is the third time in office that Obama has taken the opportunity to veto a law passed by both chambers of Congress. The controversial oil pipeline would go between Alberta in Canada and the state of Nebraska, from where the oil would be passed through existing pipelines to Texas. Critics fear negative impacts on the environment, not least in terms of increasing climate change emissions. The advocates emphasize not least that management would create new jobs.
New Minister of Defense
Ash Carter takes over as new Secretary of Defense after Chuck Hagel. Carter was nominated by President Obama since Hagel announced his resignation in November 2014, reportedly at the president’s request.
Stop immigration reform
In a dispute between the White House and 26 states that opposes President Obama’s immigration decision (see November 2014), a federal judge in Texas stands on the states side. This will temporarily halt the implementation of the decision, which would give migrants who are illegally located in the country the opportunity of temporary residence permits. The states that oppose the decision believe it means too high costs for health care, education, etc. President Obama is expected to appeal the verdict.
Envoy for LGBTQ issues
Diplomat Randy Berry, who is given a whole new international assignment as an envoy on LGBTQ issues. Through the envoy, the US government will try, among other things, to influence governments around the world to abolish laws that criminalize voluntary same-sex sexual relationships.
Military bases in Europe are closed down
The Pentagon Defense Ministry announces that the United States will remove 15 military bases in Europe.
Sanctions against North Korea
Obama signs a decree (executive order) to impose sanctions on North Korea, following the cyber attack on Sony Pictures (see December 2014). The sanctions are intended to isolate the defense industry in order to prevent future attacks. It is believed to be the first time the US faces sanctions against another country because of cyber intrusion against a company.