Downgrading education is no solution

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Dear Editor: I submit to you the following question: when will we realize that cutting our children’s education is destructive to our economic future? This question occurred to me as I attended my first school board meeting last week. Our small elementary school district in the Sierra Foothills consists of a K thru 3rd grade elementary school and a 4th thru 8th grade junior high school. Both Principals were asked by the school board to propose ways to cut costs as is necessary in the current funding environment. Both principals submitted proposals to cut tens of thousands of dollars from the budget. Both were somber, but convinced they had made the hard choices that were best for their school based on priorities in the curriculum. However, after they had finished the Superintendent informed them that he had learned in a recent meeting on the State budget held in Sacramento, our school district could expect additional mid-year cuts of $250,000, making their exercise a moot point. Not unexpectedly, all hope drained from their faces. Now this is an obvious concern to me since I have two children currently attending elementary school, but this should alarm all of us. I can imagine those who have no children or whose children have reached adulthood might wonder why they would worry about this at all; I will tell you why. First let’s take a brief and sobering look at our Country’s future economic prospects. Until the 1980s the wheels of industry were one of the main drivers of our economy. Since that time the vast difference between the wage expectations in other countries contrasted with our own has lead to a migration of manufacturing jobs elsewhere. Some call for a return to a manufacturing based economy, but the odds of that are slim. For similar reasons service industry jobs have also gone abroad in the last decade and now the same trend seems to be occurring with technical and professional jobs as well. Regardless of the priorities that the Federal Government has shown in bailing out failed financial institutions, it is obvious as a result of last years economic downturn that “reshuffling money” is no basis for an economy. Where does that leave us? What has the United States excelled at throughout its duration? The answer is invention and innovation. The best economic plan for the future is to continue to dominate innovation and hold on to the associated manufacturing jobs as long as we can until the wage differential overcomes the monopoly of “know-how”. The United States lead the way during the Industrial Revolution and subsequent technical revolutions of various kind. There are many reasons for this; our unique Constitution that created a society based on personal freedom, an individualistic and entrepreneurial spirit, close ties between academic institutions and the application of industry, but I believe the chief reason is the ambition to educate as much of the population as possible, which in turn leads to a greater probability that someone will arise to solve any given problem. So if we short-change our public education system now; who will be the inventors and problem solvers of the future? Perhaps it is time for the Governor and the State Legislature to turn their attention to reforming the “sacred cows” of State Government itself. James Ackerman, Weimar