US Education Budget Cuts Analysis

Introduction/Background

Every year in the United States, we have a budget that we must adhere by. This is called the United States Federal Budget, with this title it is the budget that is used to fund and oversee governmental operations in our country over a fiscal year. Another budget process that we must note come from the state and local budget process. Federal budgets and state budgets have similarities but they also have a major difference. The major idea that separates the two is a fiscal deficit, states budgets are required by law to make certain that their budgets are balanced, whereas the federal government is allowed to run a deficit and can also request to borrow money to meet the needs and efforts congress has put forth. No matter what level of government is being discussed, the budget is always an issue that never looses saliency because there is always an area that needs more money, whether it be healthcare, defense, public safety, or education. The federal budget has three areas that seem to aid the most when gaining revenue, these three include income tax, capital gains, and other taxes such as social security or excise taxes. The state and local budget seems to gain revenue in a wider variety of ways, some of these including but not limited to taxes such as sales, fuel, and property along with other fees such as licensing (drivers), and casino gambling.

Citizens often question where the money the government is robbing them of is ending up when operations such as medicaid and public assistance seem to be lacking. Speaking in the area of state and local budgeting, an area that raises a large amount of speculation is our K-12 education system. Although we all seem to take primary and secondary education seriously, it often slides through the cracks. We as citizens and taxpayers know how important the education of the young people in our country is, however it is often the first institute to have budget cuts inflicted. It has been recorded that the nation and the state of Alabama specifically have been fighting the battle of saving the budget allocated for primary and secondary public education for years now. Some believe that schools have enough of the budget directed in areas of education while others feel as though the extreme cuts are only hurting our children and the education they are receiving.

In Support of Educational Budget Cuts in the United States

It is understood that there is a large quantity of money that goes toward education on all levels. Primary and secondary public education specifically are allocated millions of dollars to use to their disposal to better the learning and teaching environment at these schools. There are many factors that go into making the educational system successful. Bill Gates agrees that cutting the budget it does not have to have negative effects or be detrimental to education or students. He actually states that it could have positive outcomes for students and teachers to benefit from these cuts. In an article written by Kevin Freking titled, Bill Gates: Education Budget Cuts Don’t Have to Hurt Learning, Gates states “that schools can improve the performance of students if they put more emphasis on rewarding excellent teaching and less emphasis on paying teachers based on seniority and graduate degrees” (Freking 2011). Gates also feels that there are definite do’s and don’t when it comes to attempting to close the $125 billion deficit that we face. On top of the do’s list, Gates feels as though if we were to “lift caps on class sizes and get more students in front of the very best teachers. Those teachers would get paid more with the savings generated from having fewer personnel overall (Freking 2011). Class size is a variable that always comes up in the discussion of quality K-12 education. This is often the only factor people discuss when in reality, it is also in big part to do with the quality of teachers that we have inside the classroom teaching our students. Another mistake that is often made is paying teachers based on advanced degrees they have achieved or the “veteran status” they have obtained (meaning years of experience). Instead we need to redirect our focus in the direction of under what teachers have students learned the most knowledge and how well they learned.

Other statistics show that 38% of the state tax revenues fund education (25% K-12, 13% higher education). States are obviously one of the main funders of primary and secondary schools available. Inside of these schools, 50 million students are learning and gaining knowledge. Research conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that, “One-fourth of state spending on average, or about $280 billion, goes toward public education. The federal government provides only about 10 percent of public school revenues” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2015). Any citizen can read that number and think there must be a way to cut down on such intense government spending, the key is finding how do enhance the quality of teachers while also continuing to control the teacher to student ratio.

Why Educational Budget Cuts Are a Bad Idea

In Alabama alone, we have made a per-pupil cut of 17.8% since 2008. Madison Underwood writes in his article titled, Alabama’s cuts to K-12 education since 2008 are second highest in the nation, study finds Underwood claims, “When it comes to dollars spent per student, Alabama is spending $1,128 less per student in fiscal year 2015 than it was in 2008 – that’s the largest deficit in per-student spending in the nation, according to CBPP (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)” (Underwood 2014). There have been multiple nonprofit organizations set up to help with the budget cuts because it is becoming an ongoing problem. The Alabama-based Arise Citizens Policy Project, a nonprofit with the goal of helping low income Alabamians that are suffering from the poor decisions of our state policy makers. This group of individuals feels as though the cuts that have been applied to education are not only hurting the schools but also impacting the economy presently and also in the future. Teach For America is another nonprofit that has the goal of bringing in qualified teachers to low income communities that are in need of assistance. Underwood was able to speak to ACPP executive director, Kimble Forrister to find out that she feels “underfunding education today will leave our state with fewer highly skilled workers tomorrow. We can’t strengthen Alabama’s economy by eroding our foundation for economic growth” (Underwood 2014).

Most states are facing cuts that are far worse then they were experiencing during the 2008 recession. Since many states did not have time to recuperate from the backlash of the recession, it has only made things much worse. Gabriel Thompson writes a compelling article titles A Thousand Cuts. In this article Thompson explains the challenges that have been brought to Navy Airbase, outside Lemoore, California through the budget cuts that have recently taken place. After reading this article, it goes back to letting students just slip between the cracks. These students have parents that are being deployed to fight for the country they live in but these men and women can’t even be certain that their children will be getting an adequate education because of the cuts the government are initiating at these schools. Thompson met with principle Heiko Sweeney of one of the schools in the district. In their meeting, Thompson asked what he thought would happen if the cuts became even more permanent and his answer was, “ I wouldn’t even want to think what could happen, it would be…devastating. Cutting the teachers at Akers woould also result in a reduction in the number of adults available to help students deal with nonacademic challenges, such as the deployment of their parents. Some of these kids go through a lot of stress. When a parent is deployed, its not uncommon for a student to try to take over to many responsibilities at home to fill in as a missing parent to a younger brother or sister, it can start to be a lot on these children” (Thompson 2013).

Michael Leachman and Chris Mai are the authors of Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession, put out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In this article they go into great detail about educational budget cuts prior to the recession and post-recession. The decline in state investment in educational systems has reason to cause a significant concern. While we are a nation focused on producing workers that are applicable to new technologies and skills necessary to do jobs having to do with the global economy, these budget cuts are only going to make it harder for citizens and children to gain the education they need to reach these levels. Restoring the funding made available to these schools should be extremely high on government officials list of priorities.

Evaluation of the two sides:

These arguments both have valid points and reasoning when defending why we should or should not be in favor of educational budget cuts. Supporting the cuts could force districts to find high quality teachers that aren’t paid based on how much school they have attended or years they have taught but more on how well their students learn and preform under their guidance. Another tactic that teachers are experimenting with is called “flipping classrooms”. In this practice, teachers flip time spent in the classroom and time for homework. What this means is that students are sent home with lectures from their teachers to learn and grasp a concept at home. When they return to school, they use the time that would have been spent on the lecture doing the homework together. This tightens the gap on the disconnect between the teachers and students that go home and don’t understand their homework, and also makes it easier for teachers to see what students are truly struggling and what students understand the concepts being taught.078 However, I do believe that the argument of not supporting the continuous cuts to our education reigns superior. City Schools alone were forced to cut $1.2 million from their budget just last year. This will not allow City Schools to purchase new textbooks for new students, nor will it allow them to replace textbooks that are out of date. The district is growing rapidly with High School projected to be the largest high school in the state of Alabama within the next ten years. With public school districts exploding with new students all over the country it is necessary that they are continued to be allocated with sufficient budgets to cover the public education of these children.

Conclusion

Having a stance in favor of the K-12 educational budget cuts is only hurting the future of our country. Although there is a large sum of money allocated in the direction of education in our country, it is forgotten just how important it is for the younger generations that will eventually be the young leaders of the free world. Public administrators need to make it their top priority to get these funds back on track. When these cuts happen at the state level, it means that the school districts then have to begin to figure out how they are going to raise more local tax revenue so that they don’t have to back track on the high quality educational services they are providing. Levy’s should be prepared for citizens of cities and towns to vote on these issues in their local elections to ensure that everyone is having a fair say in what money is or is not going into their local education system. The primary and secondary education in this country and considerably important, and I know that we can all agree on that.

References

“Flipping Classrooms.” Phi Delta Kappan 93.4 (2011): 6-7. Web.

Freking, Kevin. “Bill Gates: Education Budget Cuts Don’t Have To Hurt Learning.” Huffington Post [Washington] 28 Feb. 2011: n. pag. Print.

Hubbell, Annie. “Auburn City Schools Cut $1.2 Million in 2014 Budget.” Toledo News Now 17 Feb. 2014: n. pag. Print.

Leachman, Michael, and Chris Mai. “Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession.” Center on Budget and Policy Priority (2014): n. pag. Ebscohost. Web. 19 May 2015.

“Policy Basics: Where Do Our State Tax Dollars Go.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (2015): n. pag. Ebscohost. Web.

Thompson, Gabriel. “A Thousand Cuts.” The Nation 13 May 2013: 20-24. Print.

Underwood, Madison. “Alabama’s Cuts to K-12 Education since 2008 Are Second Highest in the Nation, Study Finds.” Al.com 16 Oct. 2014: n. pag. Print.