Home > Essays > Federal Policy for Schools: Billions for Safety, Nickels and Dimes for Well-Being

Federal Policy for Schools: Billions for Safety, Nickels and Dimes for Well-Being

Nick Kristof’s column, Turning Child Care Into a New Cold War”, sent me to the internet in search of data to support my theory that our nation has chosen safety over well-being when it sets its priorities… and the more I dug into that premise the more I saw it as symptomatic of our country’s growing pains. 

Kristof uses the GOPs position on funding child care as evidence of its hypocrisy on the position of family values. His opening paragraph sets the stage:

We Americans like to think “We’re No. 1,” but one recent study found that the United States was the second worst out of 35 industrialized countries as a place for families. We ranked behind Bulgaria. Behind Chile. 

Now we have a historic chance to support children and families, for President Biden’s American Families Plan proposes programs such as high-quality day care and pre-K that are routine elsewhere in the world. You might think that the “pro-family” Republican Party would be eager to translate platitudes into practical help. But you’d be wrong.

He then describes the misleading comments of the nominal thought leaders of the GOP who decried the “American Families Plan” as a government invasion of the private lives of citizens. 

But as I noted in a comment I left, this is further evidence that America has chosen safety over the well-being of its citizens. We are willing to spend $2,700,000,000 per year on “education” for security features like surveillance cameras and door locks and billions more for SROs but “can’t afford” to provide adequate counseling, mental health services, and nurses for schools? Worse we use lots of bandwidth in the media publicizing the fights to secure “Swiss army knives” (aka AK-47s) for every citizen preventing the ability of child advocacy groups to highlight the ongoing fights for the provision of services for every child in our country. When politicians are as responsive to the advocates for the well-being of children as they are to the NRA we’ll begin making progress in areas like child care. But buying guns, cameras, and door locks provides tangible evidence that “we are doing something” to ensure the safety of every child. Well-being is more abstract. It is harder to define and harder to illustrate.

But here are a couple questions that might shed some light on the question of safety versus well-being. Would the presence of surveillance cameras and the visible presence of armed police make you feel more secure. Would the police departments ability to possess military grade equipment help you sleep more soundly at night? Does the fact that your neighbor might have AK-47s and other military grade weapons at his disposal make you feel more secure? And last, but not least, does the fact that the federal government provides over 22% of the funding for police while providing 8.3% of the funding for schools make you think that we might be closing the gap between the United States and Bulgaria when it comes to the quality of life for families? Bottom line: we might want to reconsider our spending priorities as we move forward. 

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