Billionaire Ken Langone: Public education is the ‘biggest single problem confronting America’

Ken Langone

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Ken Langone told CNBC on Tuesday that public education is currently the “biggest single problem confronting America.”

“We’re failing badly with public education. We’re failing horribly,” Langone said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

He said, “We’ve got to figure a way out to bring people into the work process where they have a chance to carry themselves.”

Langone, a longtime Republican supporter and co-founder of Home Depot, said the United States ranks No. 1 in terms of how much money it spends per student. However, the nation ranks 28th in terms of results, he said.

“So, we’re spending the money, but we’re just not getting the results,” the billionaire said, adding he’s not interested in pointing fingers about “who is responsible” for poor results in education.

Langone said future U.S. workers need these skills: accounting and reading comprehension.

“Think 50 years from now, if we have not prepared these kids to be intelligent — and that’s what it takes to get them ready — what are we going to do?” asked Langone.

President Donald Trump has at times focused on workforce development and job training as a way to create skilled workers in the labor force.

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education secretary, has been an advocate for school choice policies, which bolster alternatives to traditional public schools, such as charter, magnet and parochial schools.

 Langone said Tuesday that he sees himself as a product of public education. “I benefited enormously by a great society and a great economy,” he said. “To me [education] is the biggest solver of problems going forward — if we can elevate the quality of education in America.”