Bail Out Our Schools.

Any day now, the Obama administration will announce $4.35 billion in extra federal funds for under-performing public schools. That’s fine, but relative to the financial squeeze all the nation’s public schools now face, it’s a cruel joke.

The recession has ravaged state and local budgets, most of which aren’t allowed to run deficits. That’s meant major cuts in public schools and universities, and a giant future deficit in the education of our people.

Across America, schools are laying off thousands of teachers. Classrooms that had contained 20 to 25 students are now crammed with 30 or more. School years have been shortened. Some school districts are moving to four-day school weeks. After-school programs have been canceled; music and art classes, terminated. Even history is being chucked.

Pre-K programs have been shut down. Community colleges are reducing their course offerings and admitting fewer students. Public universities, like the one I teach at, have raised tuition and fees. That means many qualified students won’t be attending.

Last year the nation committed $700 billion to bail out Wall Street banks, the engines of America’s financial capital, because we were told we’d face economic Armageddon if we didn’t. We’ve got our priorities backward. Our schools are the engines of our human capital, and if we don’t bail out public education we face a bigger economic Armageddon years from now.

More after the jump.

--Robert Reich

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