Friday, January 9, 2015

No Soldier Left Behind, budget woes

Normally, I write about education topics, but today is different. It did make me think about the educational act with the misnomer No Child Left Behind, though. Like NCLB, this situation with the military needs to change. Here are my thoughts.
While looking at a pie graph of spending categories on the US Budget, I couldn’t help but notice that the budget for the military eats up about 23% (if you count retirees & medical) of the total US monies available. ~20% of this is set aside for the various wars the nations is involved in. Education sits down there at 2.6% of the available funds. The war effort uses more than 8 times what is allotted for education. The total military budget is 240 times the education budget.

I realize that the Federal government doesn’t have much control over education, or didn’t until No Child Left Behind and its evil sister, Race to the Top. The Feds oversee certain aspects such as Special ED through the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The IDEA establishes procedures and timelines for teaching, testing and evaluating students with disabilities. But even the IDEA has recently been watered down to eliminate some of the responsibilities of the government, and ultimately the school, for those children. However, the US Department of Education (DOE) continues to mandate changes to curriculum, assessment, and teacher training and evaluation, that require additional funds without providing the states with sufficient money to implement those federal mandates.

Both the military and education budgets are part of the 39% total set aside for “discretionary” money that must be voted on each year by Congress. Many important things are in this discretionary portion – military expenses, federal and military retirees, veteran affairs, environment, justice, international affairs, for example. Except for the military slice, the money allotted to the rest of the categories ranges from 1% (Science) to 2.8% (Transportation).

During the high strung budget talks in Congress each year, there is always talk of decreasing funds for the military personnel, medical, education and retirees, even though these items only comprise about 4% of the total military money available. Indeed, the price of one specialized military plane will take care of all vets and their needs for decades at this point.  Why can’t we lessen the funds available for military hardware and contractors, and put it toward the veterans’ benefits and military pay? So many military families make so little they qualify for food stamps.

I think it’s time to rethink the allotments to current and former military personnel and reduce the rest of the military budget, redistributing that money to the discretionary items sitting at only 1% to 2.8% allotment. Just increasing each of those by 1% would enable them to do their jobs thoroughly and efficiently and perhaps even create jobs, especially in the needed transportation infrastructure.

Right now, all we have is a series of yearly cuts to the budgets of the departments that desperately need more funding. It’s as if we took education’s No Child Left Behind (which really resulted in Every Child Left Behind), and have instituted No Soldier Left Behind (NSLB). It seems it’s working just as well as NCLB.

Time for a change. No Soldier Left Behind has to go.
To see one of many critiques about No Child Left Behind, click below.

Still learning!

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