Staying positive these days is proving to be a challenge. I’m bothered by the maiming and killing, the lack of reasoned civil discourse, and our national priorities—especially as they relate to education.

Just the other day I went into a restaurant to pick up tuna on sourdough for my wife and me. As I waited I picked up the newspaper, and my attention was drawn to a chart listing student activities, e.g. math club, orchestra, baseball, etc. The next column was a dollar figure that was a “fee” that the student (or her family) had to pay to participate. And there were charts for four or five school districts around the area.

I was outraged. $118 to play baseball this year and $122 next year? $40 to join the math club? Summer science camp $199? As we face increasingly challenging times, for the good of the country, the students and families, and our local communities, I believe that these things ought to be free! And I’m also of the opinion that we can pay more taxes to afford the very things I enjoyed in school for free. If there is money for planes, bombs, and bullets, there sure ought to be money for schools! While the fees might not be problematic for wealthier Americans, I know for a fact that there are many families in the city and close-in suburbs that don’t have those resources. And there’s the crime!

Fearing that I was teetering on the edge of sanity, I went to the respected National Priorities Project website at to see where my tax dollars were going. Clicking on “Trade Offs” at the right on the homepage, I was able to see that for the additional funding for the war in 2007, in my congressional district alone, we could have had:

  • 57,593 people with healthcare, or
  • 3,549 elementary school teachers, or
  • 29,080 Head Start places for children, or
  • 66,395 children with healthcare, or
  • 1,291 affordable housing units, or
  • 24 new elementary schools, or
  • 23,442 scholarships for university students, or
  • 3,220 music and art teachers, or
  • 4,652 public safety officers, or
  • 232,004 homes with renewable electricity, or
  • 2,409 port container inspectors.

And, I might add, we probably could have paid for kids to participate in math, music, science, and baseball! After all, we have professed outrage at obesity, set ambitious goals in math and science, and bemoaned the state of popular music. Well, whoever said the following is right on the money: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention and you are part of the problem! (Italics mine.)


About the author:

Walter “Skip” Olsen is a contributer to the eNews: Leader Learners newsletter aha! Process, Inc. produces for busy principals.  Find out how to receive the newsletter here.