Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Cost of War(s) and New School Construction

Just a quick update... since I last posted below on January 27, less than five days ago, (see High Speed Trains), showing the Cost of Our Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, another $1 billion has been spent (click).

Another perspective is this: in the ten years between 1999 and 2008, we spent about $298 billion on new construction and renovation of older schools. Many school construction statistics can be found here at the National Institute of Building Sciences. In the 8 years we have been in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've spent about $1 TRILLION there.

Because of budgetary and many other considerations, here in New York, city government is planning to close 19 "under-performing" schools. Meanwhile, the Federation of Catholic Teachers says they've been informed of a plan to close Saint Patrick's Old Cathedral School in Little Italy, the oldest parochial school in town.

This is not to say that education is solely the province of schools, public, private or parochial. Indeed, the main burden rests on the shoulders of parents. A simple calculation of time available for individual instruction in a classroom of 20 children, even if teachers could undertake such a mission, would show that perhaps - big perhaps - that a single child might receive 5 minutes of individualized attention on a given day. And I think that is being generous.

More schools and more teachers, smaller classes, longer days and longer school years, the reintroduction of phys ed, art, music, dance and so forth all take money. Good lunches (and breakfasts) for kids who need them take money.

We may win or lose the wars in the East, but we certainly are not winning the war on ignorance and poor educational attainment, or physical and cultural well-being.

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