Once upon a time (last year), I taught 4th grade at a Title I school in rural Louisiana. We went to school Tuesday through Friday. Yes, that’s right – only 4 DAYS A WEEK. In 2006 the underfunded and low performing school district desperately needed to find a way to save money, so the school board had to cut out Mondays.
Last week Paul Ryan released his budget and guess what – in FY13 it CUTS $15.8 million in funding from Title I schools (schools where over 75% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch) in Louisiana alone! In FY14 it adds a whopping $54.9 million in additional cuts to Louisiana schools. By the end of 2014, under Ryan’s plan, over 4 million of the most vulnerable children across the country would lose access to education services.
According to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan this is the “The Path to Prosperity.” Is that a joke?
Title I schools are already stretched to their limits. Just ask the employees of the Zachary, Louisiana Home Depot. I used to bring all of my students’ marble composition notebooks there and convince a staff member to saw them in half so they would last longer. Or ask my students – I shrank every worksheet down to a ¼ sheet in order to save copy paper (we ran out each year by December) and it was in no way easy on their eyes. You could always ask the incredible custodial staff – there were two of them for a 500 student, 40-classroom school. Or you could ask our one part-time social worker who had a caseload that was beyond humanly possible to manage.
So, I have a question for Paul Ryan. What’s next? Cutting Fridays?
The Ryan budget does anything but put children on, “The Path to Prosperity.” Since the plan gets 66% of its cuts to programs that low- and moderate- income Americans rely on, it’s safe to say that it hurts kids that are already in tenuous situations. Most of my students’ families were eligible for SNAP (food stamps), WIC, energy assistance, the list goes on. Those are real programs that allow these families to just get by – and Ryan’s budget cuts all of them. It’s easy to list out the programs that will be affected by cuts and be angry. But when I think about these cuts, I see the faces of my students who I know will go without electricity or dinner most nights of the week. I worry some of their families won’t be able to make rent and they’ll end up sleeping on the floor at a family member’s house for a few months. I know some working parents that won’t be able to make it to work because they can’t afford gas. Thinking about these cuts doesn’t just make me angry – it makes me sick to my stomach.
To add insult to injury, the Ryan budget gives $5.7 trillion in tax cuts – mostly to millionaires and corporations. Talk about making me nauseous.
The Ryan budget might be a path – but it’s the wrong path. Investing in our kids is investing in our future. If Representative Ryan had to visit my beautiful, brilliant, and extremely resourceful students and explain what his budget means for them, the “Path to Prosperity” might take a different route.