What should you do if the excellent teacher your child was supposed to have next year retires? "Correct answer? Panic!" writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, or better yet, get the incoming class to raise $100,000 to convince the teacher to stay—it would be a bargain. A new study from Harvard and Columbia economists found that students who had a strong fourth-grade teacher earned an average $25,000 more over a lifetime—or about $700,000 total for the average size class.
They also were 1.25% more likely to go to college, and 1.25% less likely to become pregnant as a teen. Bad teachers had the reverse effect; it would actually be rational to pay them $100,000 to quit. The study is illuminating at a time when education seems to be off the national agenda; the presidential candidates are "mostly ignoring the issue," with some Republicans even decrying federalized programs as socialism. "On the contrary," Kristof writes, "schools represent a tough-minded business investment in our economic future."