Cutting teachers is a poor way to balance budget

Arlington Elementary School teacher Nadis Chambers helps her second grade students on April 25 in Pascagoula.
Arlington Elementary School teacher Nadis Chambers helps her second grade students on April 25 in Pascagoula. amccoy@sunherald.com File

The bottom line: President Donald Trump’s proposed $9 billion cut to the Department of Education would cut the number of teachers in Coast schools.

That’s short-sighted.

Education is an economic driver, a sound investment.

The further one goes in school, the higher the average salary. That’s more money for families to spend. And consumer spending is the fuel of the modern economy.

It is an effective way to fight unemployment. In 2016, the unemployment rate for a high school dropout was 7.4 percent. For a graduate it was 5.2 percent. For someone with a bachelor’s degree it was 2.7 percent.

Mississippi is near the bottom in per-student spending and it lags the United States average for high school graduates and those with bachelor’s degrees. It has a higher than average dropout rate as well.

But we are starting to turn things around. The state’s dropout rate declined sharply since 2011. It has more graduates. Its test scores are improving.

We fear cuts proposed by the White House, particularly those to Title II, money spent to recruit, train and retain teachers, would slow or halt that momentum.

Fewer teachers would mean larger classrooms, less attention for students in danger of falling behind. And most of those at-risk students are at risk because they come from families struggling economically. For them, school is the best chance of breaking out of the cycle of poverty that has haunted Mississippi for decades.

We know we have to get federal spending under control. We know agencies must shrink their budgets, root out inefficient programs and cut waste.

The Department of Education is no exception. But the president proposes to cut all the programs that give financial assistance to the poorest school districts. While several school districts on the Coast have high numbers of students who come from low-income families, they still managed to be rated among the best in the state. That’s because our communities are committed to education.

We don’t think the president should punish communities so willing to help themselves.

But if Congress and the president finds no alternative to cutting the Title I through Title IV money, we urge our district to look for any other avenue of savings other than cutting teaching positions.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.