By Haddon Libby

At a time when most of us should be thinking of vacations in places infinitely cooler than the Coachella Valley, another school year begins.  As explained to me, these earlier and earlier school year starts have something to do with government budgeting.  Whatever the reason, common sense (which is not part of the common core curriculum) would suggest that a new school year should start around October 1st and go through June given our summer temperatures.

The National Center for Educational Statistics estimates that we spend approximately $14,000 per year to educate each of our nearly 51 million students in public K-12 schools or more than $700 Billion annually.  This does not include another 6 million students in private K-12 schools in the United States or the 20 million people attending U.S. colleges and universities.  Spending at post-secondary schools annually totals an estimated $600 billion meaning that the United States spends more than $1.3 trillion each year on education. 

By the end of the new school year, we will have 1 million more Americans with associate degrees, 2 million more with bachelor’s degrees, 820,000 more with Master degrees and 184,000 more with a doctorate or Ph.D. for all of that money. 


According to the OECD and in comparison with other developed countries, the United States spends nearly 60% more per student than other developed countries yet gets lower results.

On the opposite side of the education scale, 67% of students who cannot read to a 4th grade level will someday end up in jail.  Ninety percent of high school dropouts end up on welfare while 70%.  If a child is not a proficient reader by 3rd grade, their chance of dropping out of school increases four-fold.  Learning to read is fundamental to avoiding a grim future.

Approximately 12% of the world is illiterate with Africa having the lowest literacy rate at 50%.  In the South Sudan, only 27% of their people can read. 

According to CNBC, the least literate city in the United States is Visalia, California.  The National Council for Home Safety found that Visalia is the 61st most dangerous city in the United States. The most dangerous?  The western suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

Countries with near perfect literacy rates include Finland, Greenland, North Korea, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Norway.  The most literate city in the United States is Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Closer to home, San Diego is the 20th most literate city while the San Jose – San Francisco corridor ranks 3rd and 5th, respectively.

Where little to no education often leads to a very hard life in America, those admitted to America’s most elite colleges and universities have a better than average chance of financial success.  According to Forbes, 44% of America’s billionaires attended elite colleges. When ranking the most powerful people in the United States, Forbes found that 85% of the most powerful men and 56% of powerful women attended these top schools such as Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Stanford, etc.

While Harvard is the oldest university in the United States having started in 1636, it is a mere youngster when compared with the oldest continuously operating school in the world.  That honor goes to the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco.  That school opened its doors in 859.  For those unfamiliar with the university, it is considered one of the leading spiritual and educational centers in the Muslim world similar to Harvard here at home.

Some Britons like to think that they have the oldest school in the world. The King’s School in Canterbury UK was founded in 597.  The school shut down within 100 years but reopened in the 1540s.

The first English speaking university was the University of Oxford which was founded in 1096 and continues to this day.

And where were the first schools in world history?  Starting around 3,500 BC, they appeared in the southern Mesopotamian region that is known today as Iraq.

Haddon Libby is the Founder and Managing Partner of Winslow Drake Investment Management, a Fiduciary-Only investment management firm.  For more information on our award nominated services, please visit or email Haddon at