Why Can We Raise Billions for War, But Not a Dime for Education?

What does it say about our society that we can readily raise $1.171 trillion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to www.berkeleydailyplanet.com, and hundreds of millions of dollars for the no-fly zone in Libya, yet when it comes to the future of our kids, and their education, we can’t raise a dime, or so it would seem.

The higher education system in the United States is spiraling out of control and will soon meltdown because it is in a deep crisis bought on by the world banking system crash that caused the last recession. Universities and colleges are scrambling trying to make ends meet due to large scale budgetary cuts. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 43 states have implemented cuts to public colleges and universities and/or made large increases in college tuition fees to make up for insufficient state funding. States made these cuts because revenues from income taxes, sales taxes and other revenue sources, used to pay for these services, have declined due to the recession.

Right now because of budget cuts across the country according to http://vijendersharma.wordpress.com, “tuition fee hikes for 2010-11 range from 8 percent to 23 percent in Alabama, depending on the institution. In Arizona’s three public universities this hike is between 9 to 20 percent along with a salary cut by 2.75 percent. The University of California increased the tuition fees by 32 percent and reduced the enrolment by 2,300 students; the California State University system cut the enrolment by 40,000 students. Colorado funding for higher education was reduced by 62 million dollars from 2010 onward. Florida’s 11 public universities raised tuition fees by 15 per- cent for the academic year 2010-11. This tuition hike combined with a similar increase in 2009-10, results in a total two-year increase of 32 percent.” This is but a sampling of the schools making cuts the list can go on add nausea.

“Not even prestigious American institutions like, MIT are immune to cuts. The university was hard hit by the recession. Its endowment, which funds about 20 percent of the university’s annual operating budget, decreased by about 25 percent during the crisis, falling from a pre-recession high of 10.1 billion dollars to just 7.6 billion dollars. In Harvard and Yale, the endowments which reached the top values of 37 billion and 23 billion dollars prior to the recession, fell by 23 and 30 percent respectively.” With their usual sources of funding – property taxes and state revenue – dropping in this deep recession, desperate school districts are slashing hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs.

According to http://www.cbsnews.com/, “every state in the country is taking hits, 36,000 teachers who could lose their jobs in California; twenty thousand in Illinois; sixteen-thousand six hundred in New York. So many teachers are out of work that districts with one or two openings are inundated with thousands of applications. “We want to stave off an education catastrophe,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “And the cost of inaction for our children and for our country I think is unacceptably high.”

With the amount of cuts currently in place, the next school year is looking like the darkest and most austere in 50 years, school districts are not only cutting teachers, but cutting programs, cutting school hours, enlarging classes, closing schools – all to save money. In many schools, art, music, physical education, even counseling are first on the chopping block. Across the country students and teachers are angry and protesting. Many states are pressing those with jobs to give back recent pay raises.

“My members have sacrificed over and over and we continue to do so, but we also deserve to have a living wage,” said Julie Washington, of United Teachers of Los Angeles. Cash strapped states aren’t budging. Just last month a majority of New Jersey voters said no to more taxes for schools and threw the problem back to the schools and the teachers. “If you’re really putting children first, then put your salary demands aside for a year so the children don’t get hurt,” said New Jersey governor Chris Christie. In the words of Victor Hugo, he who opens a school door closes a prison.

Russell W. Dickson
Russell W. Dickson, lives in upstate NY, and is a Freelance journalist. He has written for both print and online news/opinion pages.Russell holds a B.A. in English, minor Journalism from The University at Albany, Albany, NY. His writing experience spans more than a decade and his work has graced the pages of newspapers, magazines, online news orgs, and political websites in both the U.S. and abroad.