When did we forget about education?

By Jeffrey Ayers

(Carlos Chillon/Flickr)

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 She only recently got a whiteboard for her classroom, and still has to deal with outdated projectors and computers, rather than the latest technological equipment.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 [email protected]