(NNPA)—As the federal and state governments are all faced with severe fiscal and budget restraints, even as the United States is currently undergoing an economic recovery, the last thing that should take place is to reduce the funding for education. At the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels, the funding for education was already grossly inadequate across the nation. President Obama is on the right side of history as he continues to remind and challenge members of the U.S. Congress, as well as governors and members of states legislatures that future of America will be dependent on how well we educate the nation’s children.
For Black American parents and children, the impact of proposed budget cuts in education in most states and in the various proposals now being debated in the Congress will be devastating to the African-American community. African-American children still have some of the highest dropout rates in nearly every state. Increased poverty and the lack of a good education are the twin evils that perpetuate the prolonged suffering and pain in our families and communities.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than 45 states have imposed budget cuts that will “hurt vulnerable residents and the economy.” In a report recently released by the CBPP, it concluded, “With tax revenue still declining as a result of the recession and budget reserves largely drained, the vast majority of states have made spending cuts that hurt families and reduce necessary services. In 34 states and the District of Columbia funding for K-12 has been reduced and in 43 states funding for higher education” has been slashed.
Although some governors will not admit it publicly, but had it not been for the Obama Administration’s support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the budget cuts to education at the state level would be even greater than now projected. That Act gave states $10 billion in additional education funding. In Colorado, $400 per student was cut in the pubic education budget. In Florida, the tuition increases for public universities have been increased to more than 30 percent in the last two years. In Virginia, more than $700 million was cut in K-12 education funding. In Illinois, the funding cut for school education was more than $300 million. In Detroit and Baltimore, African-American children in particular, will face major budget cuts in education with the closing of numerous schools. These are just a small sample of what is going on as funding overall for education appears not to be a state priority.
All of this means that African-American leaders and organizations have to be more vocal and involved in the decision-making process at all levels of government to make sure that the educational interests of our children are not the first to be triaged by those who are the responsible parties to determine the federal and state budgets. Noticeably the massive protest demonstrations in Wisconsin do not exhibit a huge presence of African-American participation. But when it comes to those states where African-Americans are a decisive share of the state’s population, we should be out on the frontlines of the public protest movements on the issue of education.
We should be demanding more educational options for African-American parents and children. We should be saying no to budget cuts that will further take away educational access and opportunity for our children. The aftermath of the economic recession is our communities has been and continues to be very tough. But, we must not sit by in silence today when the budget ax is swinging at the heart of our communities. We have to fight for the rights of our children in good economic times and in bad economic times.
Let’s support education reform. We all have a stake in the welfare and education of all the children in our communities. A people who will not fight for their own children will always be a people who will not be shown respect when social, economic or political decisions are made. Our most vital resource are our children and they need our support, voice, and involvement. Stop the budget cuts in education.
(Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is senior advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options and president of Education Online Services Corp.)