Even after President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address, an event that is meant to explain the president’s goals and expectations for the future, it appears as if Americans still don’t have a clue as to what goes inside the mind of our president.
What is clear to Americans is that the president wants to shrink current federal funding for education by more than $3 billion, as stated in his 2007 budget proposal.
This is part of his new $2.77 trillion budget that will consequently eliminate other domestic programs, namely those concerning environmental protection and business development, and will allow for significant increases in military and international spending.
What is not so clear is that Bush also plans to launch new initiatives that will strengthen the country’s science and math achievement – competing with the increasing aptitude of these subjects in other countries, such as India and other areas of the Asian continent.
But how can we expect such increases in learning achievement when so much needed money is being cut from these programs?
Bush seems to project mixed signals over what should be a reigning priority in the country. On one hand, we have the No Child Left Behind mandate, and, on the other, we have to subject many prospective students and their families to take out loans with increasingly higher interest rates because of these budget cuts.
Many families will be left behind, or at least will have to spend a lifetime in debt, over paying the already high prices for secondary and tertiary education.
Bush originally earmarked 48 education programs to be cut in last year’s budget proposal, including programs for the arts, state grants for vocational education, Perkins loans for low-income college students and the Even Start literacy program for poor families.
Nonetheless, the president suggested implementing the redirected monies to NCLB-specific programs and was accordingly turned down by Congress. Understandably so, Congress had the mindset, ‘If you cut one thing a certain way, you better cut the rest consistently,’ and it appears that the only thing Bush has been consistent on is being inconsistent.
Bush also makes the mistake on not focusing on primary education. His fickle NCLB policy only goes so far. While the public is outright concerned about higher education, they are being distracted from realizing that education, as a whole, is cumulative.
If a child’s learning was strengthened during the elementary years, he or she would be able to work toward a higher education – getting good grades, applying for scholarships and establishing connections. While Bush not only cuts funding to secondary education, his cuts also trickle down to grades K-12. Americans seem to be losing out from the start.
In addition, I find it a bit peculiar to see cuts to education somewhat in direct proportion to the increases in military spending. With the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rising to $115 billion this year, the only thing President Bush is teaching America’s youth is that problems half way around the world are more important than problems right in our own backyard.
Of course, military funding is necessary to ensure that American troops receive proper tools and care they need, but when education is subordinate to such funding it just shows me where the president’s priorities lie. It also shows how the government is trying to pigeonhole impoverished families, who otherwise rely on federal loans and grants to go to school, into a life of servitude in the military with few options left for them.
Ultimately, cuts to education in this country prove to other countries that we do not have our priorities established. Our objective should be caring about the country’s educational proficiency rather than about our imperialistic endeavors toward foreign policy.
We must ask ourselves as a nation what matters more: development or manifest destiny. With our fiscal options diminishing day after day, there soon may be no child left behind, at least on the frontline of the battlefield.
Fred Frenzel may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.