The Education Budget Is Still Behind Us

Op-Ed: Climate change is a big problem. Citizens must demand many small solutions to address this threat.

The next few weeks will be a busy time for many people in this country. There’s the presidential election, the first month of Congress and state legislative races, the first week of primary season, the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, the World Cup, the presidential candidates, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the men’s college basketball championship, the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, Super Bowl XLVIII and the 2013 NFL Draft.

As we head into a busy summer of legislative work and electoral campaigns, public education is also at the forefront of activists’ minds. With the presidential campaign focusing on the economy and the environment, many people are focusing on education reform, climate change, women’s rights and labor. The United States is on track to miss some of its target dates on international climate regulations. A host of education reform programs are under review. Education funding and school accountability organizations are at the forefront of the national debate to strengthen public education in our country.

But when it comes to protecting public education from our most serious challenges and preventing real cuts in federal education funding, we are still behind. Our nation’s education budget is $1.3 trillion. This is half what we spent on health care, yet health care expenditures accounted for 17 percent of the gross domestic product in 2012. When we do a quick comparison or review of the education budget and the health budget, we are often surprised by the ways they are so close together.

In 2011, the Obama Administration’s Education Department announced $30 billion in new investment over the next five years. That’s a $30 billion increase in one of the largest departments in the federal government. The Senate education committee’s latest annual report estimates that total funding for education will increase by $7 billion from the current year to $30.8 billion in 2014.

This new budget is also good news. We’ve made more progress in recent months on education. We have made great progress in the Affordable Care Act, the Education Flexibility Act, the Higher Education Act, Race to the Top, and many more. Most

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