NBC's summit dedicated to the state of education in America continues.
At a time when U.S. students rank 25th in math among 35 developed countries and 17th in science, the pressure is on to prepare the next generation to compete on the world stage.
"This isn't just about education, we are literally fighting for our nations future here," says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Part of that fight involves more schools having to rely on outside funding and programs in these tough economic times.
Panelists at NBC's ongoing Education Nation summit included billionaire Warren Buffet, who is using some of his wealth to fund early childhood programs for low-income students.
"The evidence is we are not doing as good as we should be doing in this country," Buffett said.
The Gates Foundation's Melinda Gates s funding research to help motivate teachers and students at critical grade levels.
"When you say we have two-thirds of our kids not prepared to go to college, and they are actually spending their own money in college to be remediated of what they should learn in high school we say 'Wow!'," she said.
Teacher pay is also part of the education equation.
On average, teachers make $45,000 a year.
On top of shrinking salaries, school budget cuts are causing many good teachers to leave the profession.
Educators also underscored the importance of reaching children at an early age, and say programs once aimed at K-12 are now including Pre-K.
"Education is an investment, not an expense," Secretary Duncan said. "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. We have to look cradle to career. we have to invest in early childhood education we have to continue to drive K-12 reform."