Yesterday I was driving back from a training in a town about 45 minutes from where I live. I had the radio on and was listening to National Public Radio. The program that I was listening to was focusing on various United States states’ budget woes and discussing how a side effect of the Great Recession is that many states are close to bankruptcy. The state governments are making budget cuts. In addition to the conservative governor of Wisconsin trying to break the unions of the public employees of that state by passing legislation to reduce the power of the unions to be able to bargain and slashing public employees’ benefits, many states are cutting the funding for public education. Public education is typically the largest expenditure that most states have. The host of the radio program jokingly went on to say that perhaps the schools should run for president and began naming presidential hopefuls for the next election that had already raised a billion dollars.
The school district that I work for had to cut over a million dollars out of its budget last year and is faced with cutting another $300,000 to $400,000. Other districts in this area are faced with another year of having to cut over a million dollars from their budgets.
That’s a picture of one. It is still under development and has yet to be able to work properly. Only 13 test flight status prototypes have been built. The cost for each one is $110 million dollars. Where is the accountability for tax payer dollars? The district that I work for is small and operates on a budget of approximately $13 million. The operating budget last year for the Los Angeles school district which served 694,300 was $7.16 billion. They were forced to cut a billion dollars from their budget. What if instead of working on 13 planes to circle Afghanistan and drop GPS loaded bombs that money had gone to the schools?
I am suddenly reminded of the Vietnam Era slogan “it will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”
No Child Left Behind requires that all children are capable of passing standardized tests based on state curriculums. This sounds reasonable until you realize that the only children to be excluded from this requirement are the 2% with extreme and multiple disabilities. Children with high incidence learning disabilities are still required to pass at their grade level. And perhaps that is achievable with enough intervention. But then you have to factor in that the curriculum standards are making it so that children are expected to learn more at younger ages. And now the schools are having their budgets slashed which will require teacher layoffs and increase classroom sizes while potentially limiting the funding for extra adults who can provide extra intervention.
Worldwide the biggest indicator of whether or not a region will remain peaceful, productive, and have a high standard of living is the educational level of its population. Not whether or not the United States can come in and use 13 highly specialized and problematic bombers to bomb the countryside. Clinton failed in creating the New World Order of enforced peace by collective world operations when the peacekeeping mission in Somalia failed after the reporting of casualties proved that the public had no stomach to make the sacrifice of lives necessary and the UN military forces were pulled out. Consider Somalia now. The UN failed in Rwanda when the genocide happened while UN peacekeepers powerlessly watched and US diplomats dickered over the term “genocide”. The war in Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist acts of 9/11 but the United States actions in the region have created a quagmire. An ongoing one. The development of American military weapons and the aerospace industry has brought many technological advancements and in the past helped to stabilize the world with the threat of war. But we live in a different time period where economic power and information have might.
What if instead of buying a M16A2 rifle for $582 which is the standard issue rifle carried by all US soldiers in combat zones we bought an iPad for $500?
The M40A1 is the preferred sniper rifle of the U.S. Marine Corps. What if instead of paying over $2000 for each one of these we bought four computers that we placed in public kiosks and made public distance education available in developing areas? There is a wonderful TED talk by Sugata Mitra that can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk60sYrU2RU He talks about how there are places on the planet where there are no schools and good teachers will not go and how in these places there is unrest and violence. He talks about how education can make a difference. What if we worked for a peaceful world not by exporting violence and military might but changed our agenda to export the means for people to raise themselves up via education? Could we create world peace and less need for a military?
What if the military had to think in terms of accountability and efficiency in the same terms that the schools do? What if the Pentagon had to hold a bake sale to raise money for an F-35?