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When did we forget about education?

On Feb. 27, President Donald Trump revealed that his first budget plan would soon be submitted to Congress for approval. During that announcement, President Trump told reporters that within this new budget would be the request to add more than $50 billion to our defense spending. The New York Times stated that, in order to get this money, Trump plans to slash funding for education, science and the environment, among other things. President Trump has now made it painfully clear that he values weapons of war more than knowledge, a stance I find not only appalling, but also grossly irresponsible.

A 2015 report from Business Insider stated that the United States military and defense budget was $601 billion for that year, in contrast to the mere $68 million spent on education during that same time frame. We spend more on our military than the next seven countries combined, and put more than eight times the amount of money into the military than education. While I understand that we do need to spend money on our nation’s defense, I find the fact that we insist on spending more money on new warships and the latest technology for our military, yet settle for teacher’s salaries that typically start around $35,000 a year and on average only increase to a little over $50,000 a year, to be a little insulting.

Many of America’s public schools are remarkably underfunded, and the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary adds insult to injury. I fail to see why we need an additional $50 billion for the military when that money could go to the most useful thing possible: ensuring that the U.S. raises its low education standards.

My mother is a teacher at a small elementary school just south of Boston. Out of all the teachers at that school, she is one of only two that has remained for the entirety of the past decade, as most other teachers left for better paying jobs or to go to better schools. She only recently got a whiteboard for her classroom, and still has to deal with outdated projectors and computers, rather than the latest technological equipment. Many of her students in the second grade have incredibly poor reading and writing skills, coupled with parents who could not care less about their child’s education. The system is flawed.

How is it that we can never seem to find enough money for schools, NASA, scientists and educators, yet anytime we see a country that may or may not pose a threat to the U.S. make a small gesture of aggression, we throw billions at our military? I understand that our military is incredibly expensive and complex, but surely we can do better than a measly $68 billion for the future of this country.

If President Trump wants to cut anything it should be the military budget, and he certainly should not increase it. In his address to Congress, Trump stated that, “Education is the civil rights issue of our time.” But if it is as big of an issue as he claims it is, why isn’t he giving it more attention?

Rather than appointing someone with zero education experience to the position of secretary of education, rather than slash the education budget and rather than just talk, Mr. President, isn’t it time to do something?

I do not know why this is a surprising series of events, as it really shouldn’t be at this point. I remember watching the first episode of Netflix’s “House of Cards” and thinking, “Wow. It would be incredible to have a president like Garrett Walker who puts our education first.” Education shouldn’t be negotiable, and with our president turning a blind eye to perhaps the most important issue our country is currently facing, I’m incredibly frustrated and fearful for the future.

Jeffrey Ayers is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at jayers@umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “When did we forget about education?”
  1. David Hunt 1990 says:

    Defense of the nation is a Constitutional mandate. Education – at least at the federal level – is not.

    Furthermore, to head off the whine of “Well, we spend more than X countries combined…” think about these points.

    1. We are the world’s dominant power, for better or worse. That makes us the target of MULTIPLE foes, and we need to address potential threats from these multiple axes.

    2. Do these comparisons of spending take into account wage differences between those nations and ours? Labor is a large part of production; surely the difference in wages between countries is significant and would bring those numbers into better parity if taken into account.

    3. So, what’s that magic number of the “right” level of defense spending? And further, what’s that magic allocation between branches, between weapons systems, etc. Do you know? Furthermore ask yourself, is it KNOWABLE?

    4. Weakness invites attack. History shows this time and again; across the span of history, strong nations that can kick ass and take names don’t get attacked. Countries that display weakness, whether of arms or of will, do.

    Lastly, when was the Department of Education founded? The present-day version was founded in 1979. Somehow America became the world’s dominant hyperpower without the feds meddling in states’ affairs.

  2. Ed Cutting, Ed.D. says:

    Our country is called the United States because we are a republic of sovereign states which, in 1787, agreed to waive some of their sovereign authority to a Federal Government. These powers ate listed in the US Constitution, “providing for the national defense” being one of them.
    .
    I assume you have a driver’s license — it was issued by a state because this is a state power. Education is as well, and well over half of school budgets come from the local property tax, with most of the rest coming from the State Income Tax. One percent (i.e. penny) of the MA sales tax goes to help build new K-12 schools through the MSBA.
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    And the US Government provides some funds to K-12, that’s the figure you cite.
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    Second, even adjusted for inflation, we have more than doubled K-12 funding from what it was a couple decades ago. I taught high school for what would be $25,460 a year today — what is your mother being paid?
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    “Many of her students in the second grade have incredibly poor reading and writing skills, coupled with parents who could not care less about their child’s education.”
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    That isn’t being caused by any lack of school funding. I think we both know that….
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    In fact, there really isn’t a clear relationship between spending-per-child and educational outcome.
    Back in the 1990’s (don’t know about now),Belchertown had both the lowest per-child spending and one of the highest MCAS scores in the state.
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    But facts matter, you’ve got to add up ALL the money we are spending on K-12 education if you wish to be intellectually honest.

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