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Education And Iraq

Editorial cartoon for Sept. 11, 2003

President Bush has asked Congress for somewhere around $65 billion in added funding for operations and rebuilding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The budget request is yet another supplement to next year's budget. In April of this year, Congress OK'd $79 billion in extra cash to help pay the burgeoning costs of the Iraq-Afghanistan morass.

Administration sources are making it clear, however, that the requested $65 billion is subject to change. In other words, expect it go up even more as the weeks go on.

American citizens -- including taxpayers in White Salmon, Bingen, and elsewhere in Klickitat County -- are contributing $3.9 billion a month on military operations in Iraq. That figure does not include the costs of reconstruction for Iraq.

Where will it stop? As it is, the Bush team has created the largest budget deficits in American history, and the continuing drain to Iraq isn't helping. Are the overwhelming outlays headed overseas really making our nation any more secure from terrorism?

Equally critical, what other priorities will have to be sacrificed to fund our nation's involvement in Iraq?

Last week, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia reminded members of Congress that the "No Child Left Behind Act," passed in 2001, authorized certain funding levels for American schools through 2012. For fiscal year 2004, $18.5 billion was the promised level of funding.

Congress, however, proposes to spend only $12.4 billion for schools considered to be in economically-depressed school districts.

Byrd pointed out that when the "No Child Left Behind" legislation was approved, Congress committed to provide American schools with the funding they needed to improve. The money is geared toward hiring teachers, improving curriculums, reducing class sizes, and buying educational materials -- "all the elements that are key to helping students reach their academic potential," Byrd explained.

But because of the increasing and open-ended expenses of the war in Iraq, many in Congress are now saying the nation cannot afford the agreed-upon level of funding for the "No Child Left Behind educational blueprint.

That's misguided and wrong. There is nothing more important than educating American children. And if the Congress is going to fast-track approval of the White House request for $65 billion -- to go down what increasingly looks like a rathole in Iraq -- how dare the same members of Congress say the nation can no longer afford to fund education at the level that was promised just two years ago?

The $6.1 billion shortfall between what Congress promised for "No Child Left Behind" in 2001 and what it is offering now is less than one-tenth of what the Bush White House is currently asking for to help fund its adventure in Iraq.

If broken promises and questionable priorities are going to continue to be the new order of leadership from our representatives in Washington, D.C., it's high time we elected a brand new Congress.

JB

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