04/26/05 — Fund the future: Education budget not the place to go for short-term gains

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Fund the future: Education budget not the place to go for short-term gains

When budget cuts are on the minds of legislators, the first place they seem to look is schools, even though around election time, pumping up the education budget is what they all talk about most.

Now, there is some reason for that focus — a lot of state and federal dollars are going into education these days, and we all know that bureaucratic budgets are often full of places where cuts easily could be made.

And the recent discussions regarding what to do about North Carolina’s budget woes are no different. Education is getting a look, as are the other departments that help keep the state functioning.

The problem with education cuts is that the world is not the same place it used to be. There are more children with special education needs, whether they be language or reading deficiencies. There are more children dealing with attention disorders, and there are even more who have familial situations that require counseling and behavioral intervention.

With all these increased needs, and a scary shortage of people willing to work with these students, the last place the state should look for a way to pare down North Carolina’s expenses is its education budget.

That is not to say, however, that there might not be a few tweaks that need to be made as we look at where our tax dollars are spent. Perhaps there might be a need to take a dollar from here to support a dollar lost there.

We might need to really start measuring the return on the dollars we are spending, looking critically at which programs are working and which aren’t. That would be a much-better use of everyone’s time and North Carolina’s resources.

Education is critical to the future of this state. We cannot recruit new industry without a system that is churning out students with the skills necessary to meet the job needs.

So, putting our money squarely behind education has its obvious advantages.

Budget talks are really only beginning; there will be a whole lot more debate before anyone sees a change in his or her bottom line.

But as the state examines its immediate needs, legislators might want to think ahead a bit and fund the programs that are not only critical to this state now, but could also make a significant impact on its future.

If we start there, education tops the list.

Published in Editorials on April 26, 2005 11:34 AM