2 March 2011: Proposed cuts to education will damage our future

Proposed cuts to education will damage our future

“For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov’d him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all.” Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 2, 181–183

I suppose we should be glad it is public education-supporting Gov. Hickenlooper in the role of Brutus proposing draconian cuts to public schools rather than his vanquished opponents. Even with the battering schools took during the administrations of both Bills, Owens and Ritter, Hickenlooper’s proposal to whack another $375 million from public education certainly qualifies as the “most unkindest cut of all.”

Still, it needs to be put in perspective. As Representative Claire Levy reminds us, “it is just that: a proposal.”

According to CCSD Superintendent Jeff Miller, the cuts would force the District to pare $615,090 from this year’s budget. This comes on the heels of an overall $260 million reduction in the 2010-2011 state funding and a bit of a fix we gave for Clear Creek schools with passage of 3A this past November.

That massive of a cut is not likely given the position of Senate Democrats who as Sen. Jeanne Nicholson tells me hope to cut the cut to $150,000,000. Nevertheless, the potentiality of either is alarming, even staggering.

In a letter posted on the District’s website, Miller says he is “disheartened” by Hickenlooper’s proposal and promises “to do all that is possible to maintain the quality of education we provide to the children of Clear Creek County,” which might be futile until as he says, “our elected officials (and our taxpayers) place a priority on public education in this state and identify adequate revenue sources.”

There is conjecture that Hickenlooper’s move is calculated in that his goal is for Coloradoans to come to understand how much on life support is our state budget with the painful cuts forced by the recession, cuts now that may result in as Levy says, “doing serious damage to our future.”

The good news is that there are conscientious public officials who do place a priority on public education. As Levy points out, “the legislature is charged with creating and passing a budget, so the legislature will have the difficult task of actually balancing the budget.”

Nicholson tells me that there are efforts underway, or at least being bandied about, to ask voters in November to increase the state income tax to 5 percent and the sales tax to 3 percent for a four-year period, a temporary fix that would provide time for everyone to focus on untying the state’s Gordian Knot: TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment, and Amendment 23 that each separately and then collectively prevent the legislature from doing its constitutionally mandated job.

Compounding that complex, there are two forces at play across the nation and the state. The first is the aftershocks of the Great Recession, tremors to be felt for sometime, especially in the public realm.

The other is the unabated, well-funded assault by rightist phalanges to crush anything public, except maybe restrooms. That is being showcased in Wisconsin by Governor Scott Walker who, channeling Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher, is trying “to bust the public employee unions,” as Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson makes clear.

While Hickenlooper’s proposal is not anything close to being an ideological assault on the schools, but a pragmatic strategy and perhaps political ploy to rouse the population, nevertheless, anti-anything-public forces blissfully residing in the State of Caldera, so named for the face of the rightist Independence Institute, will use it as a wedge to crush both the teacher’s union and ultimately the schools themselves.

As Levy notes, “This isn’t just the legislature’s problem. It is the problem of everyone in Colorado because we will all have to live with the consequences and we will all have to get together to create a solution.”

Given the legislature has “taken all available steps already to protect education and other important programs,” continues Levy, they—we—find ourselves “now at the point where we may be doing serious damage to our future.”

We’re well on the road to a plutocracy in which the mega-rich control all. So, the question before us is what kind of future: One in which young people are not taught to be critical thinkers and active participants in a vibrant representative republic but to be mere automatons whose role is not citizen but consumer, mere functionaries in a corporate state in which Wall St. is the real capital?

Only a vibrant public education system and a free press can serve as bulwarks to prevent the collapse of our republic. The choice is ours: invest now or pay later.

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