Evaulating America’s education funding

Alan Duff

With recent talks of cutting the budget in order to curb both inflation and the national debt, Congress has begun to make plans to trim the large budgets of many departments. The Department of Transportation, Health and Human Services and other agencies have been at the center of previous cuts and it looks like education may be next in Congress’ crosshairs. This has caused many students around the country — including myself — to worry. 

While the budget crisis was temporarily dodged, Congress is already setting up a new round of cuts that will need to be made in order to curve the deficit. Though I do not object to removing redundancy in departments, most state governments have already taken the initiative and removed any excess funding they could from public schools. There is no more fat to trim without causing future generations to suffer. Only the meat of education remains.

Fortunately, during the last round of cuts, President Barack Obama secured programs like the Pell Grant, a program that provides money for college to top performing students in lower socioeconomic brackets. Obama also protected the Race to the Top initiative that rewards well performing public schools with additional funds.

Further cuts in the federal education system at any level will only harm the United States in the long term. While money would be saved now, the next generation of Americans would not be able to compete on the same international level that they are currently able to. In fact, studies already indicate that the United States is losing its competitive edge in education.

In the past decade, the test scores of high school students in the United States compared poorly with the rest of the world in the areas of math and science. This lower performance is linked to the amount of money contributed by the federal government to educational programs. In 2002, the United States spent 5.7 percent of its GDP on education and was ranked the 37th country in the world for total GDP contribution.

According to the CIA, five years later the total GDP contribution dropped to 5.5 percent and the United States moved into 43rd place. Decreasing the budget of our education programs hardly seems the best way to ensure the continuing competitiveness of students in the United States.

Throwing money at the education system isn’t going to be enough. Wasteful spending will not help. Instead we must create an order of priorities for our educational system so that we can keep essential programs. These priorities could include better teachers, better technology or just a better bureaucracy behind public education.

Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the federal government spends more than $14 billion on interest payments that involve education. That’s $14 billion that could be put somewhere else each year if the United States government could balance their numbers. With that kind of money being saved in multiple departments, we might just be able to solve our nation’s debt.