By Marie A. Christensen Karr

The most vital issue facing the United States today is...the crisis in public education. Not what you thought? Well, think again.
     While President Bush and much of the world are focusing on war (and not on the huge budget deficit), public schools are taking the biggest funding cuts in decades. This, at a time when many schools are in horrendous disrepair and are overcrowded beyond comprehension. Is anyone paying attention?
     Think about this: Thousands upon thousands of school employees across the country have just received pink slips, i.e., they will not have a job in the Fall. Teachers are taking the brunt of these cuts, and class sizes are sure to increase. This, when class sizes have already been pushed to the point where teachers can no longer teach, but simply 'babysit.' Students graduate unable to read or do simple math, and have no idea how to use technology. Of course, there are notable exceptions, but in my readings, these are few and far between. In my
experience, many high school students have had NO training in the basic use of computers beyond playing games and doing simple e-mail or playing with the screensaver features. We are, as a nation, failing this younger generation miserably.
     Or this: California spends $27,000 per year to house and care for each prison inmate, but only $7,000 per year to educate each child. Writer Margo Freistadt (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/19/03) tongue-in-cheek suggests that every child in California be given a 13-year prison sentence to ensure an adequate education. Something is very wrong here.
     Or this: An entire issue of Government Technology Magazine (February 03) - devoted to a plea to educators to produce more engineers, scientists and collaborative workers so we can develop better thinkers, stronger creative ideas, and faster life-long learners.
Our nation depends on it!
     Take a look around you, if you think it won't affect you. Public schools are the largest employers other than the military. When large groups of these employees are suddenly let go, what happens? Small businesses will fail, local tax bases will fall, property values will fall due to foreclosures, and so on. In other words, everyone will suffer. Everyone
is suffering.
     What can you do? Protest cuts! Raise a stink! Write letters and e-mails! Attend school board meetings! Demand credentialed teachers in the classroom and more funding to the schools; join the PTA; do fundraising; write to the President! Whatever it takes!
     Terrorism, war with Iraq or North Korea, are terrible things to consider, but worse than these is America without scholars, scientists, engineers, or an educated public. Without these, we are lost.


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