If We Don’t Invest in Education, We Pay for Prisons

by David T. Bruce

Image courtesy of the NAACP; please click on the image to sign the NAACP petition to restore education funding
Image courtesy of the NAACP; please click on the image to sign the NAACP petition to restore education funding

Rick Santorum, as have many (if not most or all) Republican presidential candidates and elected officials, has strong opinions regarding the benefits of public education and higher education and the role of the federal government in the preservation and support of these institutions.  In particular, Santorum’s 2005 critique of the public schools in America continues to illustrate how the most economically and politically affluent citizens of this country are grossly ignorant of what it means to be a member of the lower- and middle-class in the United States.

Home schooling may certainly have benefits over a public school education, but a majority of Americans do not have the resources to effectively implement a home-school curriculum.  Public education services the majority, and indeed, public education needs an overhaul.  This does not mean, however, that our federal government should wash its hands of public education, leaving states to their own devices as they would like to do with medical programs.  If our states are truly united, then our education system should be united, a program implemented that provides uniform education to all students, not merely to those who live with families who can afford the very best education.

Santorum argues that the environment in which a uniform education is afforded provides an unrealistic image of “what life is like.”  I am unsure of what frame of reference Mr. Santorum has in regards to public education and “what life is like” for the majority of Americans, but many public schools are those in which various socioeconomic groups are represented, and few of them will ever realize “what life is like” for Santorum.

Over 1.2 million students drop out of school every year, according to research data provided by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.  Of those students, approximately half of them are African-American and Latino students.  This report illustrates what life is like for the 90% of American children who rely on public education, while their government leaders suggest that less intervention by the federal government is mandated.

Mr. Santorum speaks as poorly of higher education in America, citing the perceived rejection of religious faith by students who go into college.  Santorum and all of our state and federal representatives should be more concerned about the growing lack of faith in our leaders, our government, and in the promise that our nation will provide for the general welfare of its citizens.  Our federal government rarely wants to provide for anything or involve themselves in any program that involves spending money on its citizens, and our elected representatives endeavor to convince us that fending for ourselves is for our own good.

Our government seeks to cut federal spending on education, again placing the fiscal burden on individual states and citizens who are already strapped for cash.  The burden to our country can also be measured in collective dollars and cents, as research shows that among other detriments to society, “dropouts from the class of 2007 will cost our nations more than $300 billion dollars in lost wages, lost taxes and lost productivity.”  Money not spent on public schools and education will ultimately be spent on prisons and incarceration.

Our government can find certainly find the money (in excess of $700 billion) to bail out the banking and automobile industries for fear of how the foundation of our country and our economy would be affected by the collapse of those industries, but our government cannot find the money to bail out an industry that is shown to directly impact the success or failure of our nation today and for years to come?

Money does talk, and the actions (or inactions) or our government have demonstrated where our elected officials place their priorities.

War on Education

by Shadra L. Bruce

00military-economy-x-pslweb-org1Everywhere you turn in this country, teachers are getting a bad rap. In Idaho, they’ve passed a bill to cut teachers in place of laptops and online education. In New York, school districts are slashing teachers while paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for each small town to have is own Superintendent. The story is the same everywhere you turn: teachers have a tarnished image.

Wherever you live, whether you have kids in the school systems or not, you ought to be paying attention to what is going on with the education budget. Not only does education have an impact on individual health, there is no one thing more likely to stabilize and grow the U.S. economy than a well educated, competitive work force.

No, teachers should not get to keep their jobs just because they’ve been teaching for a long time and have earned tenure (which should go away). But implementing a high-quality, standardized national education system (no, we don’t have one now) is crucial.

What we are seeing on the national level with the budget, as the conservatives choose to target those least likely to be able to protect, defend, and advocate for themselves with cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other “entitlement” programs (we should be entitled to equal access to education, healthcare, and representation), is what we are starting to see at the local school district level as well.

Superintendents and school boards are building budgets that prioritize protecting their own high salaries, perks, and benefits at the expense of those who cannot fight back: students with special needs, students who benefit from arts and music programs, and teachers who perform but don’t have tenure.

We do have to make changes. If we have to make cuts, start looking at ways districts can be more efficient. Look at ways to combine small districts together. I think most parents wouldn’t even care if transportation budgets were targeted. Ten minutes longer on the school bus would be worth having a class size of 18 instead of 40, wouldn’t it?

Even though I’m not very good at math, I can do the math here:

  • From 2001 to 2010, we spent $1,291,000,000,000 on trying to recreate the world in our image in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • We have 3,823,142 teachers in the United States. Their average annual salaries are $44,053.55.
  • If we took the $1.291 trillion dollars that we spent on war and put it into education, we could pay every teacher in the United States their full annual salary for SEVEN full years.

It is time to stop prioritizing everything but the home front and start worrying about protecting democracy here.