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Can CEA Leaders Fight for Kids without Advocating Entitlement Reform?

All the big people are talking about these days seems to be the coming “fiscal cliff,” and some tough decisions leaders in Washington, D.C., have to make. For anyone who has common sense, a big part of the solution has to be for Congress to stop spending more money than it takes in. You know, the kind of balanced budget people like my parents have to use?

In one of his more provocative pieces (and that’s really saying something), education guru Rick Hess writes that many so-called education advocates are essentially saying: “Let’s push kids off the fiscal cliff!” What does he mean? He does a good job crunching some numbers to show that, in order for politicians to stop racking up bills that kids like me will have to pay someday, our country needs significant reforms to old-age entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicare).

So you’d expect the education advocates to be pushing for entitlement reform to help spare kids like me a massive debt burden? Not so fast, Hess points out:

Just before Thanksgiving, three major unions, including the NEA, launched television ads urging Congress to “protect” Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and education. The AFSCME, SEIU and NEA released a poll showing that shows a majority of Americans opposed cutting these programs to balance the budget and that “more than half of Americans want to see the wealthy pay their fair share.” (I wonder if the “fair share” question mentioned that the highest-earning five percent of households already pay more than half of all federal income taxes?) The NEA’s director of government relations helpfully explained, “Members of Congress have to ask themselves who should make the bigger sacrifice–America’s school children and middle class families or corporations and wealthy CEOs?”

Bringing it closer to home, recently Colorado Education Association president Kerrie Dallman went to Washington to plead with our own Senator Mark Udall. On a CEA-produced video she sends the message: “It’s time to stop sticking Colorado’s families and children with the tab.” So not wanting to stick children with the tab, she simply must support some kind of reform to old-age entitlements… Right?

I think serious readers already know the answer, but a quick look at the online petition she urges viewers to sign gives a strong hint:

Instead of more cuts to vital services Americans depend on, like schools, healthcare, and Social Security, we need a good deal…. [emphasis added]

The language sounds nice, but the numbers don’t add up. Something has to be done about Social Security and Medicare if you want to maintain federal funding of education without piling debt on my generation’s shoulders. Unless you believe in teaching kids “magical money tree” fiction as fact. Where’s the intrepid reporter who will pin down CEA on this point?

A kid can dream. It’s getting pretty close to Christmas (and even closer to an important refund deadline for CEA member teachers), after all…