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NO CUTS! Don’t Balance Your Budget on Our Backs!

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Education spending is lined up to take a major hit amidst the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. With tax collections declining, local and state budgets are coming up short across the country and more than 40 states are predicting deficits.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts the combined shortfall for all 50 states could total upwards of $350 billion over the next 2.5 years, an enormous amount. Federal policy dictates that states have balanced budgets, and education accounts for 46% of all state spending. So you can bet politicians are rehearsing their upcoming apologies for deep, painful cutbacks for schools.

Education Cuts for Main Street

Already, 27 states have announced education cuts. In California, a state that teeters on the edge of bankruptcy, Governor Schwarzenegger has slashed $2.5 billion for K-12 education. New York is gutting $2.5 billion from public universities and colleges.

State leaders warn they have no choice. But cuts are not the only option. Rather, cuts are the policy demanded by big business in this situation. Over the past period, big business has fought for tax breaks and bailouts, inevitably paid for with cuts elsewhere, like in education.

Who Pays?

These cuts will hit communities, teachers, and students hard. According to the American Association of School Administrators, nearly half of superintendents across the country are cutting back on hiring, while 20% have issued layoffs and another 31% have considered them (USA Today, 11/11/08).

Local K-12 education could get hit twice, from cuts in state aid and also from declining local property taxes. These schools face larger class sizes, fewer resources, and cuts in programs like free breakfasts and sports. Schools in poorer districts inevitably suffer more.

Twenty-four states have announced cuts in higher education. Over the past several years, regular cutbacks have contributed heavily to the skyrocketing costs of tuition and fees, up 439 % since 1987 according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

Cuts at community colleges are particularly unfair when many people face uncertainty over rising unemployment. These schools traditionally see an increase in enrollment during economic downturns as workers seek job-training programs. Sixteen states reported that their community colleges lacked resources to satisfy rising enrollments in 2007, before these latest cuts (Newsweek.com, 12/15/08).

Alternatives to Cuts

Instead of cuts or tax increases on working people, shortfalls for education should be made up with taxes on the richest corporations and individuals. Working-class communities cannot afford cuts, but the rich can afford to pay more taxes for education. We could start by reversing tax breaks for corporations and Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

More immediately, the federal government should provide a full bailout for all education needs. Washington is certainly responsible for this crisis when they are spending trillions of dollars on the Iraq War and Wall Street.

A Plan for Action

If students, teachers, parents, and staff are firmly united, organized, and mobilized to win widespread public support, these cuts can be defeated. It’s important that we absolutely reject any notion that we must be “realistic” and accept “some” cuts. The moment we agree with this, we will be forced to compete with each other for crumbs. Instead, we must absolutely support each other’s demands. No cuts! No layoffs! No tuition hikes! Full funding for all education needs!

Ultimately, defeating the cuts means organizing a massive grassroots movement in every school and community using demonstrations, rallies, walkouts, and strikes to make the politicians feel the pressure and power of our numbers. Above all, it will take widespread determination to yield not one inch to cuts.

Teachers’ and staff workers’ unions must use their enormous resources to help give a bold lead to organizing massive, powerful actions at local, statewide, and national levels. Rank-and-file union members and students should campaign for the unions to take up fighting policies against cuts if they haven’t already.

We need to fight these attacks. But this will not be the last time we will need to campaign against cuts. U.S. capitalism is facing its worst crisis since the 1930s. As the recession deepens, as is expected, we need to be prepared for even deeper cuts.

Ultimately, this means we need to build a movement that goes beyond this momentary budget crisis and aims to end cuts once and for all by getting to the root of the problem – the very nature of this class system.

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