The Spanish word for “hold hostage” is SECUESTRAR – The sequester is holding hostage all those who are about to get hit by the across-the-board meat ax. And these across-the-board automatic cuts fall heavily on the heads of little children who are being held hostage in this political standoff.
I was talking to a radio host yesterday who assured me that the hostage-takers in Congress would inevitably have to blink. He said, “Once the massive layoffs begin in the Department of Defense and cancer researchers in the Centers for Disease Control and inspectors who make sure our food and air and medicine are safe… well, they won’t let that happen.”
Oh, won’t they.
I’ve lost my faith, you see, in this Congress. Yes, there are good people and smart people and patriotic people amongst the members of Congress. But as a whole, as an institution, they function on a par with drunken idiots behind the wheel of a car careening off a fiscal cliff. And I mean no disrespect to drunken idiots.
Let’s just take, for one example, the kids who will be hurt. Our most vulnerable kids; disabled kids, kids who live in our poorest communities and have the most disadvantages and look to their public school as the only way they are going to turn around the generational poverty of their lives. Those kids will be hurt first.
President Obama took precious time in his State of the Union message to talk about beefing up something as fundamental to student success as Head Start for preschoolers in families who live in poverty. The ax will fall on thousands upon thousands of these preschool children.
Title One schools are the schools with high populations of children living in poverty. These children depend on school lunches for nutrition. They depend on the reading tutors and afterschool programs that enrich the regular school day. They depend on the summer school classes that help them keep up with other children. The ax will fall on thousands upon thousands of these children.
Children with mental and physical disabilities are found in every demographic. They are children in rich families and poor families and immigrant families. The federal government requires Special Education programs for special needs children in every public school. But across the board cuts will devastate the federal portion of providing these programs.
March is the month when many school districts will be passing their budgets for next year. They will be left with a big fat question mark in terms of the federal dollars they can rely on to pay Special Ed teachers and preschool teachers and reading tutors and afterschool homework assistants. They won’t take a chance on Congress being reasonable. They’ll give into the hostage-takers. They’ll start passing out pink slips to teachers and support professionals and administrators. Those folks and all the folks who will be laid off or furloughed by the across-the-board ax chops will hunker down, as they should, and put off replacing the refrigerator or buying shoes for the kids or planning that vacation – things that help the economy in the private sectors. It’ll happen all over the country.
And we’ll all start that long slide backwards into the recession and uncertainty that we were just starting to pull out of. Revenue for public schools will sink even lower as more and more folks are pushed down the pink slip slide.
There’s only one thing you can do to a drunk driver. Pull him over. Take the keys.
You do that with Congress by becoming that flashing light they start to pay attention to – the one that makes them swear and get nervous that someone sees them. Light up the phones in their offices. Shoot emails and get your friends to fire off messages. Show up in the home office with your colleagues and neighbors. Write to you paper’s editors, put it on your blog and Facebook page and let Congress know that the sober public wants them off this road for our own safety.
Our children are walking down the middle of that road. Don’t let drunk drivers run them over.