Sometimes there's just one number that describes everything you need to know about a topic. We have one of those today and it has to do with education.

If you want to understand the state of education in this country, listen to this: nearly 80% of New York City high school graduates have trouble with basic skills like reading, writing and math. The vast majority do not have the basic skills you would expect of someone half their age.

The news was reported by a local CBS affiliate today. City officials said 11,000 kids who had graduated from the city's high schools needed remedial courses to relearn the basics before entering New York’s community college system.

This isn't just an inner city, poor schools issue. When Former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee appeared on our program, she told us that the underperformance can be seen in students of all backgrounds.

The poorest kids in America rank 26th out of the 30 developed nations in math compared to their peers. That's a trend we are too accustomed to seeing, but the trend is broader. The richest kids also rank 26th. “Middling schools aren't confined to ghettos,” says Rhee. They plague every neighborhood.

A report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce found that the U.S. economy will create 46.8 million new and replacement jobs in the next five years. More than half of those will require some college education. The problem is that we're not producing enough educated workers to fill those positions. If we don't fill those positions, watch out for more outsourcing. American jobs will go overseas to China and India, and we don't want that!

When it comes to education, the stakes could not be higher.

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg is planning to put education high on his list when he leaves office later this year. He plans to bankroll charter schools. Good for him.

I'd prefer that he fixes the mess that exists first. Kids graduating from New York schools need to have basic skills.