As a constituent and an educator, I want to express my deep concern about the “sequestration” cuts delayed for two months under the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The sequestration cuts propose to cut $3 billion from education in 2013 alone.
Education and other programs serving, children, working families, seniors, and other vulnerable populations already took a huge hit in last year’s Budget Control Act. These programs must not continue to be the source for deficit reduction while millionaires and corporations continue to benefit from tax cuts and loopholes.
Unless Congress acts to stop the sequester, education funding will fall off a cliff, dropping to pre-2003 levels. America’s elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools have added 5.4 million students since 2003, and costs associated with K-12 services have increased 25 percent since 2003.
Tens of thousands of jobs could be lost in early education, K-12 and postsecondary education. Since July 2008, the country has lost 312,700 public education jobs. This means there are roughly as many local school jobs today as in December 2004. Yet, there will be 847,000 more pre k-12 public school students this coming school year than in the fall of 2004.
Schools are already required to provide certain necessary school supplies and free lunches for students with low-income families. Teachers are being forced to take 10%, and sometimes higher pay cuts to avoid being laid off. Their benefits are being slashed, while they are being forced to contribute more of their dwindling paycheck to their health care and retirement.
I am considered a part-time educator, and therefore receive no benefits. My hours were cut this year due to budget concerns. I do not have the option to draw my salary over the summer because I am paid hourly, and if I want to earn income during the summer, I have to be hired into temporary work. However, whenever I interview for that temporary work, usually I am told that I am “overqualified” which is code for “we don’t want to pay you a living wage.”
I work at a school that has no windows except for the in the front. This is a school that has computers that were new when Windows XP was released, where the Economics textbooks have a copyright date of 1998, and the American History textbooks end at Bill Clinton’s presidency. Whenever I look at these surroundings and hear about potential education budget cuts, I simply want to barf.
These sequestration cuts must be stopped. I personally cannot understand why Americans and politicians alike are complaining about quality of education when they are not willing to provide it the funding necessary to operate, much less provide the state-of-the-art, technologically driven education of the future that is so desired by employers in the job market.
We could begin by eliminating all tax loopholes for corporations. If they make money in the U.S., they have to pay taxes. We could also get rid of loopholes that allow the super-rich to hide money overseas, defer compensation, or a myriad of other schemes of the 1% to avoid paying taxes. These people produce absolutely nothing except for wealth for themselves and their cronies. Why should they not have to pay taxes?
We could cut the defense budget by 10% and start closing a few military bases. Bring all of the troops home, and focus on making our military ready to defend our country. It’s the Department of Defense, not the Department of Offense.
The public education system can no longer afford to balance your budget on their backs. You say you want the best and the brightest teachers, but pay them less than garbage collectors. You say you want a state-of-the-art, technologically driven education that employers demand, yet refuse to appropriate money to buy books much less computers or other high-tech devices. Well, as many of the banks claimed when they were using taxpayer dollars to give their CEO’s seven-figure bonuses, you have to pay top dollar for top talent.
The last place any sort of spending cut should occur is in a school. In fact, you should be discussing when to end the oil subsidies so you can use that money to make an infrastructure-level investment in schools.
Because an infrastructure-level investment is the only thing that’s going to save America’s educational system, seeing as how you’ve let it crumble much like our interstate highway system has during your inability to pass a simple maintenance bill to repair it.
You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Get off your butts and get something done!