April 22, 2017

What could $5.28 Billion buy?

neaToday (Spring 2017 – pages 24 – 25) reports that 1% of the Federal Budget is put toward education in the United States.  Since 2001, the United States has spent a staggering $8.36 million per HOUR on war according to the National Priorities Project.  In addition to this amount, $528.5 billion tax dollars per year are used by the Department of Defense for non-war costs.

While I rarely devote space here to political issues, as a product of the public education system (elementary through college) and an educator with over 40 years experience working in public schools,  I couldn’t let these figures pass without at least some comment.  If you re-read the first sentence in this paragraph, I don’t think you can dismiss my comments as those of someone with a rant.  I have walked the walk and have watched education withstand wave after wave of attacks from those who wish to beat public education back into the stone age.  I marvel that US Public Educators continue to do as well as they do with the lack of support over the past decade.

Yes, I am a lifelong union member going back to my high school days in the American Federation of Musicians – local 213. Yes, I am  a career long member of both the National Education Association and the Michigan Education Association.  Had I not been supported by the NEA-MEA efforts to increase wages and protect my benefits, there is a very good chance that I may not have been able to remain in education, raise two children and see them thrive in their public education.  Of course, their K-12 education came in the time before the most recent attacks on educational funding began to decimate school districts – particularly small, rural districts like ours.  It makes me wonder what the future will hold for the students and educators of today and the future.

The 1% of the Federal Budget is highlighted above because neaToday gives the following comparisons after making the statement, “Imagine if we could put just 1 percent ($5.28 billion) of the money that goes to non-war costs toward education instead.”  What could that $5.28 billion buy?

> 65,389 elementary school teachers for a year . . .

or > 593,098 additional Head Start slots for a year . . .

or > 159,113 university scholarships (covering all four years) . . .

or > Pell Grants of $5,815 for 227,209 students for four years . . .

or > health-care coverage for 2.23 million low income children

This is not a debate about the value of being the world’s policeman (I am not an isolationist by any means) nor is this a debate about which of these things (military or education) that is more important.  This is just a call to arms – education thrives today because the work of educators and their unions that have made education a profession.  Students can not be educated for the cheapest bid in the same way widgets are manufactured by the lowest bidder.  Education should be the one area that demands we buck up and fund it like it is important to our future – because it is important!  We are playing a dangerous game and the tip of the iceberg that will sink us like the Titanic is the constant attacks on public education.

The fight will not be an easy one.   Attacks on the media, PBS, immigrants, the environment . . . the list goes on and on. . . are the parts of the political iceberg that are just beginning to emerge.  We are learning that promises are easy to make in a campaign but they are not binding.  Common sense tells us all that we have too much at at stake in this country to let the PUBLIC GOOD be hijacked by a small, monied cartel whose only interest in taking control is their own pocketbook.

If someone wants to take issue with my school district, please remember, that these are my opinions and mine alone.  I welcome your thoughts on the matter.  KE Raisanen