Budget Cuts Leave U.S. out of Global Progress

By Jenkins, Karen | Black Issues in Higher Education, March 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Budget Cuts Leave U.S. out of Global Progress


Jenkins, Karen, Black Issues in Higher Education


The United Nations launched its "Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in January. The purpose of the "Decade" is to promote viable and just societies for all people. All over the world, educational institutions are being encouraged to move beyond teaching about the environment and implement educational policies and practices that include economic aspects of development, such as alleviating poverty and understanding different cultures in order to celebrate diversity, promote gender equality and indigenous knowledge.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the goals of the Decade have particular significance, given the disparity in wealth between developed and still-developing countries.

The recently announced budget of President George W. Bush is a strong predictor of how the United States will enter into the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The proposed cuts indicate that the United States will be unable and unwilling to take a leading role in educating students to work for viable and sustainable communities at home, much less abroad. This will be another missed opportunity for the United States to take a leading international role in education. The budget cuts, if enacted, will consign more students to low employment opportunities and poverty.

If we look at the priorities set forth by Bush in his budget, especially for education, the success of Decade in the United States looks bleak. First, there is the record $427 billion deficit. Then, the President's budget omits the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ($80 billion), the cost of making the Bush tax cuts permanent ($1.6 trillion), modifying the Alternative Minimum Tax, which hits hardest on increasing numbers of middle-class taxpayers ($774 billion) and the estimated $4.5 trillion cost to reform Social Security.

The budget is a disaster for state and local governments already straggling with deficits and now facing growing expenditures for Medicaid and education. Bush has proposed that one out of every three programs targeted for cuts or elimination be in education. Funding for the Department of Education would decrease by $529.6 million, or 9 percent. Budget cuts affecting educational programs total $1.3 billion.

Of particular concern for college-bound Americans is the proposed elimination of the Perkins Loan program for students with exceptional financial need. But the cuts in education become even more alarming when we consider programs aimed at improving the lives of children through education, and helping women and the poor improve their career opportunities.

In addition to the Perkins Loan program, other programs marked for elimination include state grants for Drug-Free Schools and Educational Technology, as well as the Even Start Family Literacy program. …

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