When schools axe programs that, when available and running efficiently, positively impact gifted and struggling students; when they eliminate activities that benefit all students, especially those from poor families who, in general, would not be exposed to them otherwise; when athletics, music, art, foreign languages and field trips become luxuries; public education is underfunded.
When community members cannot afford their mortgages and rents, when the choice is food or life-saving medications, when businesses locate somewhere more affordable, somewhere else, taxpayers are overburdened.
One is not the fuel stoking the other’s painful fire, nor is one the infection feeding the other’s sickness.
Still, you would think that was the case when some school officials grumble that taxpayers are unwilling to support public education, when in fact, taxpayers are simply unable to withdraw from a depleted account.
And what about taxpayers, who are fed up with rising taxes and take their frustration out on public schools, which have been ravaged over the past few years due to soaring costs and inadequate aid and are reduced to running off survival instinct, a quality system suddenly becomes an endangered species.
It’s not like there is no money out there, or at the very least, government officials willing to borrow funds for causes they deem worthy.
U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan possibly total more than $5 trillion, yet the reasons behind the military actions have been widely questioned as have the outcomes thus far.
There is the $700 billion TARP bank bailout in October 2008 under Bush and the $787 billion Recovery Act in February 2009 under Obama.
Bush enacted controversial tax cuts, which Obama and the Republicans extended for two years in an $858 billion tax compromise.
There were also hefty bonuses on the taxpayer’s dime during a time when the average American struggled to remain afloat and punishment seemed more realistic than rewards.
Depending on the individual, one may support all, none or some of the above actions. Maybe you are fine with where the money is going, maybe you are not.
What is clear is that it’s not being deposited into the education bank.
In terms of federal spending, defense, social security, Medicare and Medicaid, safety-net programs and interest debt come before education.
When considering spending as a percentage of the GDP, Cuba ranks first when it comes to education and the United States, while tied for first place with Switzerland in annual spending per student, is merely 38th in terms of spending as a percentage of the GDP.
The latter ranking is the one that counts, as spending-per-student averages and subsequent comparisons are tricky unless all variables are considered. An array of factors can increase or decrease the cost of educating any particular student, and many of them are difficult to pinpoint.
One thing that is apparently not under debate is that Americans want education and health care to be the government’s top spending priorities, according to a University of Chicago Study administered since 1973.
Yet the federal government supplies only 3.5 percent of public school system funds, with state and local governments picking up roughly 48.7 percent of the tab and taxpayers covering the rest. That taxpayer percentage is higher in many North Country schools.
In the end, it continues to appear that taxpayers are overburdened and public schools underfunded.
Perhaps next budget season, when taxpayers and school officials grow desperate and angry, instead of each being blinded by their own pain, come together, determine where the priorities lie and demand the government listen.
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