The new bipartisan budget agreement recently passed in Washington undoubtedly charts a new course for our federal government. Over the past two years, deficit reduction has, very justifiably, been a major focus for our lawmakers. Now, as we begin 2014, citizens throughout the country, and also here in Indiana, may consider reflecting on how our government upholds many elements of our society that help make our nation great.
The principles of limited government under an impartial rule of law have shaped the very fabric of our government since her founding 237 years ago. Within these bounds of limited powers, some core functions inevitably develop into essential matters that help to keep our communities thriving and prosperous.
The foremost example of this is our nation’s capacity to supply our young people with a strong education. Providing opportunities to learn to the next generation is, without a doubt, one of the best things we can do to invest in our future. Across the country, and especially here in Indiana, education translates to greater economic growth and development in the years and decades to come.
Over time, achieving a high-quality education is significant to one’s lifetime earnings and ability to adjust to the evolving workforce. In 2011, the average worker who was able to obtain a bachelor’s degree earned roughly $1,000 a week more than individuals with only a high school diploma. Further, unemployment rates for college graduates are three times less than for those who did not finish high school.
Given the tremendous contributions of education, the federal government’s role in reinforcing these opportunities cannot be forgotten. The recent budget compromise importantly averts a second year of sequestration cuts, which would have deepened the education funding cuts from the last several years. While the measure is a step in the right direction, the bill only partially replaces the sequester cuts included in the budget for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal year.
According to the Committee for Education Funding (CEF), Federal education funds that are dispersed to every state and their communities account for less than 6 percent of the total federal budget. This support reaches nearly 1 million Hoosier students, and millions of students nationwide, a number that is only expected to rise.
Each of these students will surely face growing challenges as industries evolve and the jobs that they provide change. Employers will need more high-skilled workers and we will have to do all we can to maintain a modern education system In order to adapt. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by 2018, an estimated 63 percent of all new U.S. jobs will require workers with an education beyond high school.
Specifically, as our economy becomes more focused on technology-based products and services, our schools will need the support necessary to further emphasize training in science, technology, engineering and math. Students in many other nations are continuing their high achievement in these areas and it is critical to help our scholars do the same.
Americans can be proud of the challenges our nation has taken on to produce a thriving society. One of the cornerstones we have built is education, and now we must maintain it. To preserve our nation’s success in and further our development we must restore funding for our education programs.
Frank A. Bush is executive director of the Indiana School Board Association.