Congress needs to invest, not divest in education

By Shavar Jeffries

With just days left to fund the government, here’s an easy way House lawmakers could buy themselves time—double down on investing, rather than divesting, in the education of our children.

In 1965, as part of the federal government’s War on Poverty, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Title I program, sending more federal money to public schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families, seeking to compensate for the yawning resource gap in school funding in wealthier as compared to poorer communities. From large, urban districts to smaller, rural ones, Title I has been critical to mitigating the educational inequities associated with concentrated poverty.

This makes policymakers’ efforts to gut Title I funding even more problematic. While the Senate agreed on a bipartisan agreement to raise Title I funding next year, House lawmakers went the other way, proposing to cut the program by 77 percent, or $14.7 billion.

Almost $15 billion in cuts would undermine school districts’ capacity to attract and retain high-quality teachers when the nation already faces historic teacher shortages. The proposal would trigger 220,000 layoffs and $2.2 billion in teacher-training reductions. These cuts would depress teacher wage growth when educators already earn 24 percent less than comparably qualified college graduates.

These cuts also would reduce critical student services, including a $890 million cut for academic support for English-language acquisition; $87 million for social and emotional learning; $70 million for instruction-improvement programs; and $35 million in civil-rights enforcement.

Read the full op-ed here.