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Biden oversees jobs bloodbath in public education



School districts across the US are announcing devastating school closures, mass educator layoffs, and termination of tutoring, counseling, and other critical education services. Education analyst Chad Aldeman recently told CNN that as many as 384,000 full-time positions may be cut—an unprecedented assault on the public education system.

Striking West Virginia teachers in 2018 (WSWS Media)

The real cut in jobs, however, is likely to be much higher. During the Great Recession under former President Barack Obama, the equivalent of 110,000 full-time education jobs were cut. But the real job loss was estimated at 364,000 including part-time or hourly staff. 

The education jobs bloodbath is now being justified as necessary to bring staffing levels to 2018-19 levels, before the three rounds of federal pandemic aid to schools. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) funds began in March 2020 and will be fully allocated by September 2024; they amounted to roughly $190 billion. 

The limited federal assistance to schools over four years may sound generous; it was nothing of the kind.

To put this in perspective, Biden’s one-year military budget, signed in March, was officially $825 billion, but likely more than $1 trillion when monies for all classified operations are included. On April 24, Biden signed legislation providing another $95 billion to fund the genocide in Gaza, the brutal US/NATO war against Russia in Ukraine, and for armaments to be used against China.

In other words, the pandemic lifeline to the nation’s 75 million schoolchildren (averaging $47.5 billion annually each of four years) is a mere 4 percent of the most recent US budget for weapons of death and destruction ($1.1 trillion).

It could not be clearer that the priority of the ruling elites is global military and economic hegemony, no matter the price for the future of society. Biden who touted himself as the “education president” with a “teacher spouse” has decided to provide a blank check for war while insisting there are insufficient funds for public education.  

The Democratic president’s decision to refuse a new infusion of aid to schools is not a return to “normalcy.” It constitutes a fundamental shift towards a war economy on the “home front” in which education is subordinated to the immediate profit needs of business, especially the business of war.

As it was, the pandemic funds amounted to little more than a financial band-aid. Districts were reeling from declines in state tax revenue, skyrocketing IT costs, and huge increased costs for outsourcing services. Food service costs rose 21.3 percent, school transportation rose 14.5 percent, and utilities went up in many districts by double digits. 

Schools also bore the costs of the intense social crisis caused by the let-it-rip COVID policies of the Trump and Biden administrations. Schools provided food, medical attention and mental health supports to young people, resources that were largely unavailable anywhere else. Today, more than one in five students seek mental health help in schools. However, declining resources have meant cutting mental health professionals. A report this month shows effective mental healthcare is available now in less than half of schools, even prior to further cuts. 

Criminally, the limited resources under the ESSER provided no allocation for disease control such as universal HEPA filtration systems and far-UV technology. As every parent knows, an entire generation has been infected and reinfected with COVID, passing the deadly disease onto family and friends, with death, disability or persistent Long COVID affecting millions.

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