You can tell a lot about someone's priorities by where they spend their money. Pet lovers spend disproportionately large amounts on chew toys and animal sized sweaters. Foodies spend a lot of money on, well, food. Our federal government, as an entity, is no different. Where the government puts its trillions tells us volumes about what it values most. And, sorry to say, education is nowhere near the top of the list.

We put together below infographic to illustrate this point. You see those three massive chunks? Those aren't education. Those are defense, Social Security, and government-run healthcare, and they take over 60 percent of the budget.

What does this say about us? It says we care about maintaining a dominant military presence, taking care of retirees, and keeping people who can't afford healthcare healthy. (Keep in mind: these numbers are from 2008 and do not take into account the healthcare bill that was just passed.)

And where is education in all of this? With all the talk about races to the top and Title 1 funding, you'd think it would show up somewhere. And there it is. See that little green blip that stands for a whopping 2 percent of the total budget? That's education.

Highways and roads get more than education. Scientific research gets more than education. 

Looking at the budget in this context, one gets the impression that all of this rhetoric about improving education by doling out hundreds of millions (from a budget of trillions? Really?) is nothing but feel-good PR. Hundreds of millions, and even single-digit billions, are a paltry amount, and our students deserve better.

I know that someone is going to get on here and give the typical line about how we gotta keep the country safe and we gotta take care of seniors, and I am not arguing against those needs. I am arguing that maybe politicians should stop forcing schools to create a world-class education out of pennies. If we really believe in reforming education, let's put our money where our mouth is.

Click here to read the article by Denise Chow at

2 comments on “Is education important to gov’t?

  • This is great information – its encouraging to see online education is becoming more widely accepted and the benefits are backed up by a range of studies.

  • This article does not take into account state and local spending on public education. Total expenditures on public education in the US were about $610 billion in 2008-2009, almost the same as defense spending.

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