The perpetual budget crisis in our nation’s schools continues. This time the focus isn’t on local funding cuts but federal ones.
Early on February 19, the House of Representatives voted to cut more than $5 billion out of the U.S. Department of Education’s current-year budget. As usual for a House sharply divided by partisan philosophies, the budget cuts went through on a party-line vote. The final score: 235-189.
According to this article by Education Week, the Senate isn’t expected to sustain the cuts, and even if it did, it’s anticipated that President Barack Obama would use his veto to ensure that the education department doesn’t lose so much of its cash.
Part of the trimming in the House came from cuts in School Improvement Grants of $336.6 million and Teacher Quality State Grants of $500 million.
The reasoning given by Democrats and Republicans for their respective opposition and support of education cuts follows orthodox party rhetoric. Republicans say that cuts are necessary in these tough economic times and they are trying to spread them fairly, and Democrats say that the damage these education cuts would do outweighs their savings in dollars. The Democrats also use the veiled statement that we need “revenue increases” as a polite way of saying we must raise “new taxes.”
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with either of these positions. Both cutting spending and raising taxes are reasonable and time-honored ways of preserving resources in the federal budget. But the sharp adherence to one or the other policy by both parties means that these debates always end predictably—whichever side has greater numbers wins.
However, Republicans can only win in the short term. With a Democrat in the White House, the all-powerful veto stands as the ultimate impediment to their legislative plans. So in the end, the only options we are left with are failure or stagnation. Neither side can really gain. That is unless they work together and compromise — a possibility that seems anathema to both political parties.
But for the good of the people, we will need to see some reasonableness from both sides when trying to figure out the best way to preserve and create federal budgets during economic crisis, especially when education is at stake.