Ben Bernanke and Bill Gates both gave speeches this week linking state budget problems with cuts to education.
... 2011 budgets of more than 20 states contained either outright reductions in local aid, changes to revenue-sharing agreements, or cuts in funding for specific programs that are run by local governments — such as education for grades kindergarten through 12 ...
No economy can succeed without a high-quality workforce, particularly in an age of globalization and technical change. Cost-effective K-12 and post-secondary schooling are crucial to building a better workforce, but they are only part of the story. ...
The payoffs of early childhood programs can be especially high. For instance, preschool programs for disadvantaged children have been shown to increase high school graduation rates. Because high school graduates have higher earnings, pay more taxes, and are less likely to use public health programs, investing in such programs can pay off even from the narrow perspective of state budgets; of course, the returns to the overall economy and to the individuals themselves are much greater.
Here's the full text of Bernanke's speech.
And here's Bill Gates, giving a preview of his TED talk:
There are long-term problems with state budgets that a return to economic growth won't solve. Health-care costs and pension obligations are projected to grow at rates that look to be completely unsustainable, unless something is done. But so far, many states aren't doing much to deal with their fundamental problems. Instead they're building budgets on tricks – selling off assets, creative accounting – and fictions, like assuming that pension fund investments will produce much higher gains than anyone should reasonably expect.
Eventually they'll have to make some hard decisions about priorities, and I'm worried that education will suffer, even more than it is suffering already because of budget cuts.