Recently, preliminary information was released outlining how the Trump administration may be cutting $9.6 billion from the Department of Education budget. Work study programs, teaching training initiatives, school programs, and more would be slashed.
We could argue until we’re blue in the face about the merits of public vs. private schools, voucher programs, or school choice. But nobody can deny that a budget cut of that size has the potential to cause some pretty drastic changes within the national education landscape. Which makes it all the more puzzling that, a little more than a month ago, it was revealed that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is guarded by a security detail that costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $1 million a month.
Look, I’m not one to doubt the need for increased protection of our elected officials. We live in a dangerous world and we all have the right to feel safe. But Betsy DeVos comes from a family worth billions of dollars, and yet somehow the rest of us are on the hook for her expenses. Maybe she could chip in a little for her costs, you know like pretty much every teacher in America has to do? If she did, here are a few that million dollars per month could be better spent.
1. 5 Million Pencils
On her first day of work, Betsy DeVos had a little trouble finding pencils. Well, for a million bucks, the DOE could buy 5 million of them at 20 cents a pop. My wife, who is a middle school teacher, assures me that this would most likely not be enough to supply one school for a single month, given how many get lost. But it would at least make a dent. Plus, think of all the glorious standardized tests those pencils could fill out!
2. 17 New Teachers
Since the Great Recession, many districts have been fighting to find qualified teachers. Layoffs, furloughs, and other budget setbacks have made the pool of qualified teachers dwindle. But with a million bucks, we could fully fund the annual salary of at least 17 new teachers. Continue that funding over an entire year, and you get 204 fully paid new educators. And your kid’s classroom just got a little bit less crowded.
3. Six Full Tuitions at Harvard
There are plenty of kids out there who would love to attend college but are unable due to lack of resources. With just $1 million added to the federal education budget, we could afford to pay for four years of tuition to Harvard, one of the nation’s most prestigious (and expensive) colleges, for six kids. That’s six Mark Zuckerbergs. Six Natalie Portmans. Six kids who might never get to put their genius out into the world because they might not be given the opportunity. Imagine what could happen if they did.
4. A Shop Vac for Every Middle School
There are two types of teachers: those who love to craft in the classroom, and those who REALLY love to craft in the classroom. And the ones who really love to craft tend to REALLY REALLY love glitter. Why not help them out a little and start a national endowment for Shop Vacs? We could spend a million dollars and put one in just about every middle school in America. Our schools would be cleaner and our carpets a little less sparkly (but no less magical).
5. 3,333 iPads
Given the chance, my 6-year-old son would have spent all day, every day in kindergarten doing nothing but popping simulated bubble wrap and watching Transformers videos on his tablet. But thankfully he had a teacher (and a mom) who made him read and go outside. Nevertheless, what amazing inventions and discoveries might we miss because some of our most promising future scientists and engineers don’t have access to educational technology? Something as simple as a $300 iPad. And how easy would it be to make sure that doesn’t happen?
6. 17,000 School Lunches
Betsy Devos’ security budget would feed 17,000 kids for a month. Think about that. For the cost of one month of taxpayer-funded security for our billionaire Secretary of Education, we could pay for 25 days of lunch for a student population that rivals the size of many American towns. That’s a lot of chicken nuggets. And a whole lot less lunch shaming.
7. 1 U.S. Senator
Or two Congressmen!
8. 27 Years of Port-a-Potties
We could set up a nationwide program to prevent teachers from needing to use the student restrooms. Next time your school’s single occupancy teacher bathroom is out of service or has a long line, no problem. You could rent a Port-a-Potty and stick it outside your classroom with a sign that says “KEEP OUT except for (insert your name here). At $200 a day, you could rent that sucker for the next 27 years and still have money left over for air freshener.
9. Endless Kleenex
At the end of the school year, it’s easy to notice when my educator wife is running low on school supplies. The pens in our house disappear. The once-once bulging ream of multicolored construction paper is down to black and orange sheets. There’s nary a paperclip to be found. But the one thing she complains about missing more than anything else is Kleenex. It seems that her classroom runs out of tissue halfway through the year and she is relegated to shirtsleeves and soft-upholstered furniture for the remainder of the semester.
Imagine all of the Kleenex teachers could fund with $1 million a month! They could stockpile so much in the back of their room that doomsday survivalists would seethe with envy. With that much money, they could literally remove the tissue from the box, stuff it with dollar bills, and use the money to blow their nose to their hearts’ content! Some may think that’s an incredible waste of money. But I can think of worse ones.