If you've been paying attention to the national news lately, you've certainly caught wind of the catastrophic budget problems that the Philadelphia public school system is currently facing. This isn't only happening in Pennsylvania, but other areas across the country that view budget cuts as an option to "fix" public schools. Perhaps even more ironic, in a week when even some Republican members of Congress have come out in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act, Pennsylvania's Republicans, led by entrenched Governor Tom Corbett, have created a budget that should be entitled the Unsafe Schools Creation Act by maintaining nearly $1 billion in drastic cuts to education funding.
Now before I get to the details which I believe are up for debate, let me get past the details which I believe are not, namely the value of a first-class education. First, every dollar we spend on early childhood education comes back into the economy many times over. Some studies indicate (PDF) a return on investment as high as seven times that early investment in pre-K education. Second, increasing education funding leads to not just higher performance, but it means less government spending on incarceration and crime prevention. Increased education funding literally adds years to the lives of our students and future workforce, and extends the time period in which they work, earn, and pay into the system. Lastly, increasing education funding creates the types of schools that spawn innovation and the expertise necessary to compete in a global environment. Not only that, but better education is also linked to more secure, longer-lasting personal relationships. In short, more education funding means not just brighter students, it means smarter, happier, more productive workers, living longer, healthier, more industrious lives.