Yes, Republicans nationwide are engaging in concerted efforts to suppress votes, overpower women’s rights and tar and feather Obama. But did you also know that Republicans may be purposely undermining the public education system to keep wealth and power concentrated in the top 1 percent in future generations?
Below is a smattering of recent news that shows Republicans don’t just want to lower taxes on the rich – they want to weaken education. The presumable end goal is to choke off wage growth, restrain social mobility and decrease competition for wealth.
- Rep. Paul Ryan’s federal budget plan introduced this Spring cuts federal education and training investments by 53% per capita compared to 2010 funding levels. Yes, that’s more than half.
Republicans in North Carolina recently tried to boot disadvantaged preschoolers out of early education interventions by charging the parents of at-risk children a premium fee to send their 4-year olds to pre-K programs. Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order to uphold access, for now. David Parker, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, had this to say:
This effort by the GOP is nothing more than a Trojan horse designed to turn back the clock on decades of progress and excellence in North Carolina’s public education system. I have no doubt that the ultimate goal for the Republicans is to overturn the Leandro case (which ensures low-income families have access to education services), de-fund our schools and completely dismantle public education in North Carolina…Republicans in the General Assembly are attempting to return to an era of extreme inequality in public education.
- The recent Minnesota government shut down ended with Republicans winning a concession from Democrats to stem the state budget shortfall by delaying $700 million in school funding.
- In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker famously hobbled collective bargaining rights for teachers’ unions this year – even in the face of a massive populist uprising. But did you also know that Walker’s plan slashes school budgets by $834 million over the next two years? In fact, education cuts make up 20% of Wisconsin’s total budget cuts. Furthermore, Walker has ensured that schools can’t make up for the shortfall by raising local property taxes.
- Detroit public school teachers are taking a 10% wage cut and will pay more for health care. At the same time that the Michigan financial “emergency manager,” Roy Roberts, asks teachers to “sacrifice,” he is being chauffeured around in a new $40,000 Chevrolet Tahoe bought by the state.
- The 3,000 schools in Florida’s public school districts will receive zero (ZIP) from the state this year for additions or needed repairs to thousands of aging buildings, while the 350 Republican-favored charter schools have scored the full $55 million pie allocated by the Public Education Capital Outlay program.
The problem is this: If you keep schools underfunded, block preschoolers from accessing early education, keep teachers perpetually unsatisfied, and allow schools to crumble, you are wreaking serious havoc with the future economic security of those passing through the U.S. educational system.
A recent study revealed that only 32% of U.S. students rate as proficient in mathematics, putting American students in 32nd place out of the 65 tested countries – the essence of mediocrity. The same report concluded that the U.S. could increase per capita GDP growth by nearly $1 trillion per year by enhancing its students’ math skills, bringing them on par with students in Canada and South Korea. The trouble is: Republicans don’t care about increasing per capita worth, because that means spreading the wealth around.
Whether or not the theory proposed here is true – that Republicans aim to legislate economic inequality and squash social mobility for generations to come – the fact remains that they are pillaging our education system and its current students right now.
Their purpose seems undeniable: The GOP aims to help the ultra-rich and powerful to continue to hoard wealth (via tax breaks) while the working class drops further behind. That’s not an American ideal. A nation that does not truly value education – and that does not seriously invest in educating its youth – is a nation on its way out.
Vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, come hell or high water – both of which scenarios seem more likely if the Republicans gain more control on Capitol Hill.