Every state capital in the nation is struggling with massive budget deficits—over $20 billion in stateslike California and Texas and comparable red ink everywhere else. States and cities are exploring bankruptcy to get out from under crushing debt and pension obligations, but there’s actually a better solution. Close all public schools.
In California, for example, almost half of the annual $80 billion general fund spending is for public schools, so closing them would solve the deficit and allow lawmakers to heed constituent demands for lower taxes. On its face, this sounds absurd, but let’s examine the realpolitik.
In 1970, about 40% of the nation’s wealth was held by 10% of the population. Today, almost 40% is held by just 1% of the population (and over 70% is held by just 10% of Americans). Obviously the kids of those people can afford private schools - - and mostly do attend uniformed academies with aristocratic names like “Marlborough” and “Horace Mann”. Ok, my Santa Monica neighborhood has a private school called “Crossroads”, but there has to be a New Age-ish place for Hollywood actors and their shrinks to send their kids too, right?
Of course there has to be an educated governing class, but the coal, oil, and tobacco fueled lobbyists and their Tom Delays can obviously afford the private schools too. This royalty runs the banks and big corporations that make political donations and write many laws for busy legislators (thanks to the Supreme Court, now denominated in $$ amounts with more commas), so why do we need to educate everyone else?
It’s also apparent that we’re not getting much for what we do invest. In 1970, 80% of kids graduated high school and the US was ranked #1 in every meaningful educational category. Today, only about 70% graduate, and according to OECD statistics, our students’ math capabilities are ranked behind educational giants like Poland and the Slovak Republic (how many American high school students does it take to screw in a light bulb anyway?), hardly worth the nearly $1 trillion spent each year in this country for public schools.
Moreover, those who do earn sheepskins aren’t putting them to very good use. Half the country refuses to accept the overwhelming science about the impact of human-made carbon pollution or even read a newspaper with daily headlines of unprecedented floods, famine, fire, and other consequences of climate change. Many of those grads ignore their costly education and instead cite religious texts to assert that Jesus walked with dinosaurs on an earth that is no more than 6,000 years old. Should our tax dollars be squandered for this outcome when all we apparently need is a 3500 year old story book found at no cost in the nightstand of every Motel 6?