The Ryan Budget: A roadmap to ruin for schools, students and families


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.

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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.”


Reader Comments

  1. I remember in 8th grade learning about the Constitution of our United States. I also studied the Constitution as a 12th grader, and again in college. Can anyone tell me where does the Constitution grant the Federal Government so much power in the education system?
    At this time, I do not know what is in the Ryan budget, or any other budget proposals. I am in favor of lowering the tax burden on middle America by cutting back on a top-heavy federal system.
    Some cuts may be painful, but necessary, especially when one looks at all the wasteful and fraudulent spending in our Billion Dollar Baby (that was $3.4 trillion dollars in 2013).

  2. I read that teachers have to buy supplies out of their own pockets and Texas from what I hear is down at the bottom for taking care of education This is terrible because from what I hear they don’t make that much money.

  3. I’m tired of hearing NEA’s “throw more money at the education problem! As an educator myself, I can look back at 35 years of throwing more money into education….has it made anything better? No…it’s actually gotten worse!! You have to have a sustainable amount of money for education. But more money does not equal better results. Look at society as a whole…we’ve given our kids everything. Has that made them better citizens? Absolutely not…it’s made more people dependent and expecting that they should have things they can’t afford. The wealthy in this nation pay more taxes than anyone else, but that isn’t enough for the NEA. Guess what…if you took ALL of the wealth from all the people making $1 million or more, you still wouldn’t have enough. You would then say the middle class can pay more. If the NEA would stop complaining about money and start focusing on supporting those teachers who are doing well, and WEED OUT those teachers who are just collecting a paycheck and insurance, then the NEA may see more money come its way.

    1. Have you ever heard of Warren Buffett? A millionaire who is aghast that he pays less taxes than his secretary. I’m really wondering where you are an educator – I don’t know of any district that hasn’t faced severe cuts to education. In my California elementary district we have class sizes of up to 35, have lost our teacher assistants, informational specialists, psychologists, health clerks, bilingual aides, and others. We do not have music, physical education, art, or science teachers. We are being asked to do more and more with less and less. I do not know one teacher at my school who is just collecting a paycheck and insurance. Each one of us puts inordinate hours and many of our own dollars to make sure every child in our classroom is successful. If you are truly an educator, stand up for education.

    2. Actually, if you look at NAEP, high school graduation rates, college attendance, or any other number of objective measures, our public schools are doing better and better. And guess what – when adjusted for child poverty rates, the United States scores better than all other nations on the international PISA tests too. It is a myth that public education is in crisis – a myth propagated by those who stand to make huge money by diverting public funds into charter schools and other for-profit enterprises.

      1. Unfortunately, adjusting for the child poverty rate doesn’t change the child poverty rate. Children living in poverty are losing out in education because they are focused on their hunger instead of their math class. The free school lunch of 4 chicken nuggets, 8 tator tots and an orange may well be their only meal of the day. These kids’ parents can’t afford a binder, much less tutoring, enrichment classes, etc., making it very hard for them to match up to students who eat well and sleep in a heated bedroom.

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