President Bush is trying to shift the debate on education to a higher plain. During his State of the Union Address last week, the President highlighted the issue of competitiveness -- or the lack thereof -- between American students and their counterparts in China and India. In his speech, President Bush argued, American students are falling behind in key subjects are because of that he said, America is falling behind in its fight to stay on top of the job productivity ladder.
In his State of the Union Mister Bush said, "Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people, and we are going to keep that edge." To keep that edge, the President announced a new initiative, which would focus on a re-energized math and science course structure.
The President's initiative would place some well needed funding into those courses and create a new program to provide incentives to teachers who wish to teach college-level course in America's high schools. This was one of the rare points during the speech that received a bipartisan response of applause and cheers. But as the saying goes, "the devil is in the details."
Today, Congress and the American people got their chance to see those details in the form of the President's 2007 Budget. The White House delivered the four-volume packet to Capitol Hill today with much fanfare and a few mentions on the network evening news programs.
The overall budget totals $2.77 trillion -- yes, trillion dollars with most of the money going toward "War on Terrorism" in the shape of increases for homeland security and the Department of Defense.
But if the President truly wants to improve America's competitiveness through education, many of the cuts he has suggested for the Department of Education are -- well, indefensible.
This is the second year in a row the President's budget has called for cuts in education. The 2005 budget cuts sliced up the student loan program and cut some 80,000 students completely from eligibility for Pell Grants for college.
This time his budget calls for a more than 6% cut in educational funding, which amounts to nearly $4 billion dollars. To be fair, many of the cuts are being called reductions in funding. However, those who depend on those services will see services reduced or halted because of lack of funding. The President is calling the programs slated for cuts " inefficient" and are classified as "deemed unnecessary."
The Bush administration has placed 42 educational programs in the deemed unnecessary box and is requesting more money for school vouchers, which no matter what one's position is on their effectiveness, takes money out of the public treasury to fund private educational programs.
One of major targets is the federal vocational program's annual $1.2 billion dollars. It seems strange that just a year ago, the President was touting vocational programs in high schools and community colleges as a vital source of skilled blue collar workers for Corporate America.
If the Administration was clearly interested in improving the health of America's educational system, there seems to be more pork-pointed programs and initiatives, which could be cut long before education get hit.
Particularly, when new studies show college graduates lack basic skills this country should be funding education program not cutting them.
Besides the vocational cuts, the President also has an eye on the arts, programs to keep schools drug-free
and parent-support resource centers. It seems expanding students education foundation, keeping drugs out of schools and providing support for parents seeking help with their child's and sometimes their own education are all "deemed unnecessary."
What probably is more disturbing is that at the same time as the budget calls for cuts to educational programs, there is still a tremendously low level of funding for the 2001 "No Child Left Behind," that nearly every school district in the country has criticized for lack of funding since its inception as well as an outline to make tax-cuts permanent.
If Congress agrees to these cuts in education (as well more than 100 other service programs like Medicare), the country may be feeling the ill effects long after the war in Iraq is over and Osama Bin Laden is dead. America will be a more militarized, less economically stable and continue to rank near the bottom in cognitive educational skills -- more so for those who can't afford the charter and private educations now considered the safe haven for America's children.
Decades later -- far after these essential education programs are forgotten and the America lags behind China and India, but also many countries in Europe it may be the American worker that is deemed unnecessary.
COMING UP TOMORROW: SPECIAL EDITION - DEATH OF CORETTA SCOTT KING
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