President Obama visited Kenmore Middle School in Arlington this week to outline his vision for our public education system. The President’s remarks built upon his State of the Union speech where he called on our nation to out-build, out-innovate, and out-educate the rest of the world. He called for hiring 100,000 new math and science teachers and informed us that in countries like South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.”
I share the President’s vision, which uses the federal budget to invest in our future generations. This is the Northern Virginia way.
Our region is home to some of the best schools in the nation. We understand the importance of investing in education. Unfortunately, Falls Church serves as the exception, not the rule. The national statistics are difficult to comprehend. Nearly a quarter of American students don’t graduate from high school while over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs are going to require more than a high school diploma. Currently roughly 80 percent of our schools are considered “failing” under the No Child Left Behind law. Driving back from the event to Capitol Hill, entering the District of Columbia, one is reminded of the inequality in our own backyard.
This week, the House passed another bill to temporarily fund the federal government, this one for three weeks, taking us to April 8. It’s no way to run a government, let alone the most powerful one in the world. This piecemeal approach leaves agencies unsure of when they will receive funding, at what levels, and prevents the signing of any new contracts vital to ongoing operations, such as opening new Social Security claims offices.
This bill follows last month’s Republican-sponsored budget, H.R. 1, which included $61 billion in harmful, drastic cuts. The cuts in H.R. 1 include important programs that invest in our next generation like Head Start, Women and Infant health care. It also eliminated funding for Metro, a system crucial to the growth and stability of our local economy.
One of the main responsibilities of Congress is to create and oversee the federal budget. As a member on the House Appropriations Committee, it is my duty to ensure the funding of the federal agencies and help determine our national priorities as they reflect the interest and will of the American people.
H.R. 1 and the other short term spending budgets put forward by the Republican leadership fall far short of our responsibilities as legislators. They would destroy jobs, savage the federal workforce, and risk imperiling our nation’s tenuous but steady economic recovery. We need to be investing in education, in the American workforce, in our country’s future. The mindless cuts proposed, and piecemeal budgeting proposed so far fail to do that. But with only six months left in the current fiscal year and still no agreement on the 2011 budget, time is running out.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.