In the first decade of the 21st century, several issues are salient in debates over further education reform:
Longer school day or school year
Charter schools, school choice, or school vouchers
Smaller class sizes
Improved teacher quality
Higher credential standards
Generally higher pay to attract more qualified applicants
Performance bonuses (“merit pay”)
Firing low-performing teachers
Internet and computer access in schools
Track and reduce drop-out rate
Track and reduce absenteeism
English-only vs. bilingual education
Mainstreaming special education students
Content of curriculum standards and textbooks
Funding, neglected infrastructure, and adequacy of educational supplies
Funding levels[edit source | editbeta]
According to a 2005 report from the OECD, the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools, with each of those two countries spending more than ,000 (in U.S. currency). Despite this high level of funding, U.S. public schools lag behind the schools of other rich countries in the areas of reading, math, and science. A further analysis of developed countries shows no correlation between per student spending and student performance, suggesting that there are other factors influencing education. Top performers include Singapore, Finland and Korea, all with relatively low spending on education, while high spenders including Norway and Luxembourg have relatively low performance. One possible factor, is the distribution of the funding. In the US, schools in wealthy areas tend to be over-funded while schools in poorer areas tend to be underfunded. These differences in spending between schools or districts may accentuate inequalities, if they result in the best teachers moving to teach in the most wealthy areas. It has also been shown that the socioeconomic situation of the students family has the most influence in determining success; suggesting that even if increased funds in a low income area increase performance, they may still perform worse than their peers from wealthier districts.
Starting in the early 1980s, a series of analyses by Eric Hanushek indicated that the amount spent on schools bore little relationship to student learning. This controversial argument, which focused attention on how money was spent instead of how much was spent, led to lengthy scholarly exchanges. In part the arguments fed into the class size debates and other discussions of “input policies.” It also moved reform efforts towards issues of school accountability (including No Child Left Behind) and the use of merit pay and other incentives.
There have been studies that show smaller class sizes and newer buildings  (both of which require higher funding to implement) lead to academic improvements. It should also be noted that many of the reform ideas that stray from the traditional format require greater funding.