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Austerity, Subsistence, or Investment: Will Congress and the President Choose to Bail Out Our Children’s Future?

The aggregate cuts to education budgets currently described as inevitable are in fact a political choice for the federal government, and they will inflict serious harm on children. This policy memo lays out the three options now facing the federal government: austerity, whereby states suffer budget shortfalls unaided by the federal government, leading to massive teacher layoffs and other resource deprivation, subsistence, whereby the federal government backfills state budgets to maintain the status quo, and investment, whereby the federal government responds to this crisis with the initiative to drive a national renewal of our public education system. This policy memo aims to assist policymakers and the public in understanding the larger context for the calls for federal stimulus spending to support public education, and makes the case for why the country cannot afford to cut education spending at a time of increasing needs for children and families.