By Jeff Kazmierski, Copy Editor
In a column I wrote last July titled “Education is the key to the future.” I commented on the financial problems faced by states and municipalities and the measures local governments were taking to clean up their fiscal houses. Among the options being considered at the time were cuts to education spending from elementary to higher education.
Now, eight months and one election later, those options are actually on the table. Newly-elected state governors and legislators, most of them Republican, are looking to close budget gaps. To accomplish their goals, they’re looking at cutting education spending in their states. Forty-six states are cutting portions of their budgets that will “hurt families and reduce necessary services,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The cuts come in the areas of K-12 education, higher education and services to the elderly and disabled.
The same governors who are cutting programs for people who need them are busy giving generous tax breaks to businesses and corporations. They’ve also taken tax increases off the table.
This is a recipe for failure. There’s no evidence that the tax breaks will result in any economic gains. The toxic combination of reduced state tax receipts and cuts to social spending won’t balance the state budgets. Worse, the proposed budget cuts will not only not produce positive economic impact, they could actually deepen the recession and reverse our nation’s fragile recovery.
Education is the key to our nation’s future. Any hope of emerging from this recession hinges on making sure the next generation has the knowledge, skills and technology to do it. They won’t if they’ve been hamstrung from childhood by short-sighted and reckless spending cuts.
As many as 25 percent of America’s children live in poverty, a two percent increase from last year, according to reent U.S. Census data. How does cutting education help them?
America’s corporations aren’t suffering. Oh, there are a few exceptions, but for the most part, they’ve rebounded and are doing quite well. They don’t need tax breaks to be competitive. They need skilled workers, and they won’t have them if we short-change our children’s education.
There is strong evidence that children who live in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. Many drop out of school and become the working poor, perpetuating a vicious cycle. How do corporate tax breaks help them? What kind of work force does cutting education spending create?
In his Jan. 25 State of the Union address, President Obama referenced education 10 times, innovation nine, and investment seven. This wasn’t by accident – education is an investment and an innovation. The jobs of the future will need smart, capable people to do them. If we aren’t willing to spend more money on education at all levels, we can forget about being competitive in world markets. Only education will prepare our children to be the innovators, researchers and investors of the future.
Our nation stands at a crossroads. The theme of the president’s speech was “Winning the future.” Our children are the future. That’s not a bumper sticker slogan, it’s a fact. Education isn’t an optional expense. If we aren’t willing to invest in it now, we won’t win the future – we will lose it.