By Amanda Litvinov
The way retired teacher Marilyn Taylor-Gerken sees it, Washington needs to take immediate action to fix America’s infrastructure—not just bridges and roads and public transportation, but the infrastructure of a public education system that provides a quality education for all.
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“Public education is the best road to reducing poverty in our country, and we’re all allowing it to crumble,” said the teacher of 37 years, who taught special education in Ohio for 25 years. “It will continue as long as the rich and powerful are allowed to evade their responsibilities to our society.”
“You cannot expect the middle class, which is dwindling by the minute, to make up for the fact that the upper end of the spectrum isn’t asked to pay its fair share in taxes, and meanwhile leave people on the lowest-income end of the spectrum to fend for themselves.”
But that’s exactly what Rep. Paul Ryan expects, judging by the budget resolution he released yesterday.
Ryan’s budget would give deep tax breaks to those who need them the least—the nation’s wealthiest citizens and corporations—while cutting the portion of the budget that funds all federal education programs by $800 billion over the next decade.
Instead of replacing the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester, the Ryan budget would make conditions even worse by ignoring the congressionally approved agreement to split the cuts between defense and non-defense spending.
Fifty million students, especially those in high-poverty communities and those with disabilities, would bear the brunt of the education cuts directly in the form of larger class sizes, less individualized attention, and fewer classroom teachers and support staff.
Ryan would also dismantle key programs that protect families through tough times, including Medicaid, which provides healthcare for one-third of American children. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and other anti-hunger programs would be cut so deeply that many low-income families would lose benefits altogether.
College would be an unattainable dream for even more of our nation’s talented young people, with the maximum Pell Grant award frozen for an entire decade.
“His budget is an American Dream killer,” said Arizona teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Paul Ryan continues to balance the budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable—low- and moderate-income Americans, children, students, and seniors—while failing to demand corporations and the rich to pay their fair share.”
Educators like Taylor-Gerken know how relentless cuts to education funding can affect students and their families directly. “I worked a lot with special education students who were on a track to go to college,” she said, “and shortly after I retired in 2010, all of those programs were dropped due to education cuts.”
“We’re told again and again that there’s no money for public schools and yet elected leaders don’t ask everyone to pay their fair share. We’d better start organizing now for the elections this fall or we could end up with the radical GOP dominating both houses of Congress,” she said.
“Then we’d better put on our seat belts, because it’s going to be a rough ride.”