The State of the Union speech is one of our national rituals that should not be dismissed as a hollow public exercise. Its broad themes reflect the President’s convictions and serve as an indicator of his priorities for the nation going forth. Regardless of party affiliation or political disposition, the President’s focus on education is to be lauded.
Education perhaps like no other issue is at the heart of maintaining and sustaining the greatness of the nation. Especially at this time when hard decisions must be made to stem growing deficits, it is important to not lose sight of how essential funding education is and the significant effect it has, not only on our well being as a country, but also as a true element that fuels our economy.
As an example of how this issue hits close to home, we can look to how Hillsides Education Center has been inadequately funded for the past several years. Struggling school districts have not been able to fund the true cost of educating the students they refer to HEC, resulting in a growing operating deficit of approximately $500,000 annually. Much of our fundraising activity now benefits our effort to maintain the quality education and care that is offered to the students enrolled at HEC. Unfortunately, this is an indicator of how State and County budgets are balanced on the backs of students. This creates a poor environment within which to educate and demoralizes our dedicated educators.
Now that the State of the Union has been delivered, the process now moves to the preparation of a Federal budget that will inevitably have an impact on State and local education initiatives. We will continue to advocate for fully funding education to assure our students and indeed all students receive the resources they need to be successful. I encourage all of us not to be timid in supporting education as a priority. In spite of the painful cuts that need to be made at this time, education must be fully funded if we are to be successful in the long term. Fiscal responsibility need not be short sighted and the most vulnerable need not be sacrificed to balance a budget!