When It Comes to Education and Other Urgent Needs, Bush Administration’s Budget Doesn’t Match Its Rhetoric
WASHINGTON – The $2.23 trillion federal budget that President Bush sent to Congress this week effectively asks House and Senate members to serve as willing accomplices in a scheme that seriously shortchanges children, seniors, low-income families and others who are among the most vulnerable Americans. The president’s new budget demonstrates that the Bush moniker of “compassionate conservative” is a veneer, not the values guiding this White House.
“Most states are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the budget deficit is rapidly growing, and our nation is poised to enter a war with Iraq that experts say could cost at least $100 billion. In this climate, it is unthinkable that a president would embrace tax and budget policies that are this radical and irresponsible,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way.
President Bush’s $674 billion in tax cuts include eliminating taxes on stock dividends and accelerating his original tax cuts. Additionally, the president hopes to make the original 2001 tax cuts permanent. The Bush tax cuts are tilted heavily to benefit the wealthy over Americans who are more likely to be unemployed or otherwise in need. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Bush tax cuts would give millionaires an average windfall of over $90,000, compared with middle-class Americans who would receive an average of only $256.
These changes in tax policy would have a devastating and long-lasting impact. Through the year 2013, by the Administration’s own estimates, more than $1.8 trillion in federal revenue would disappear. And this does not include the costs of several items on the President’s agenda that could increase the price tag to over $2 trillion. This evaporating revenue will slowly starve public schools, environmental protection, public health programs and civil rights enforcement of desperately needed funds.
In proposing his newest round of reckless tax cuts, the president has taken a page from the playbook of ultra-conservative activist and Bush loyalist Grover Norquist who said two years ago that his goal was to cut government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” The nation’s most vulnerable citizens will pay the price for these tax cuts, and schoolchildren are among them.
Funding for 46 Education Programs Vanishes
Since the president has often expressed the desire to “leave no child behind,” examining education funding offers a glaring example of the gap between the Bush budget and the Bush rhetoric. While the budget proposes an increase of $2.8 billion for education, roughly two-thirds of this spending increase will be absorbed by previous shortfalls in the Pell Grant program.
Worst of all, the president proposes to wipe out funding for 46 education programs. These 46 programs include Rural Education, the National Writing Project, Arts in Education, dropout prevention programs, Native American programs, and other programs that benefit children, parents and teachers. While the Bush budget provides $25 million to help charter schools renovate their facilities, it fails to fund emergency school construction to serve the vast majority of public schools.
Even as the Bush administration turns its back on the nation’s commitment to public education, it reserves its compassion for private schools by proposing to spend $75 million in new funding for vouchers. And the White House proposes to sacrifice $226 million in revenue for tax-credit vouchers—refundable tuition tax credits for private or religious schools.
With these proposals, President Bush reduces his often-repeated desire to “leave no child behind” to a cynical slogan. Here are some examples of the gap between the president’s budget plan and his rhetoric on education:
At-Risk Students – President Bush has said the nation has an obligation “to make sure that every child has a fair chance to succeed” and has called education “the great civil rights issue of our time.” Yet the president’s budget eliminates all $235 million in funding for the Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) program, which has helped high-poverty and low-achieving schools in all 50 states develop strategies to raise student achievement. The president’s elimination of CSR funds defies the view expressed by the U.S. Department of Education, which reports on its Web site that CSR uses “measurable goals and benchmarks” and “is an important component” of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Quality Teachers – Last March, President Bush has said that “a good teacher can literally make a lifelong difference” for a child, but his budget proposal says something else. The president’s budget completely eliminates funds for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, removes all funding for the Ready to Teach program, and freezes Title II-Teacher Quality block grants for the second straight year.
Parental Involvement – Last year, President Bush explained that a key benefit of the No Child Left Behind Act was that “[p]arents will have more information about the performance of their local schools and more say in how their children are educated.” Yet the Bush budget totally eliminates funding for the Act’s Parental Assistance Information Centers, which were supposed to be a critical vehicle for giving parents the information, training and support they needed to get more deeply involved in their children’s schooling.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools – In his recent State of the Union speech, President Bush declared, “Another cause of hopelessness is addiction to drugs.” Yet the president’s budget—released only a few days after this speech—slices $50 million from Safe and Drug-Free Schools grants. The president’s budget makes even deeper cuts in after-school programs that seek to prevent drug use and violence. Finally, the administration’s proposed budget eliminates $32 million that enables schools to hire guidance counselors who assist students with emotional or behavioral issues.
Equal Educational Opportunity – Earlier this year, President Bush said, “Racial prejudice is a reality in America. It hurts many of our citizens.” Yet the president is unwilling to support efforts to level the playing field for all Americans. Only weeks after Bush announced his opposition to affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, he has unveiled an education budget that completely eliminates the Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity Program, which provides funding to help low-income, minority and disadvantaged students succeed in law school.