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Access to Educational Materials More Important Than Ever in Today’s Political Culture

Written by Kate Harveston

Budget cuts to education are on their way, and we may lose services we have depended on for our children’s schooling. President Trump’s 2018 budget included a 9.2 billion or 13.5% cut to education spending. These cuts would affect kindergarten through 12th grade — your child’s entire school experience. And it would also affect financial aid for higher education.

Trump’s budget cuts $2.4 billion from teacher training and $1.2 billion from summer after school programs. Cuts in funds for education will affect everyone, but the poor are particularly at risk. Many programs in place to help the poor will be cut, including the work-study programs and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG).

The budget also slashes around $200 million from programs which help low income and disabled students. Gear Up, a program which helps low income students prepare for college, would also be eliminated. $190 million that goes toward supporting literacy programs would be cut as well.

Public Schools At Risk

School choice” will expand under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Charter schools, private schools and vouchers will all be supported by the Trump administration. This sets up a situation where a family can choose to send the money they spend in taxes to whichever school they want, rather than be forced to go to the school in their district.

Supporters argue it makes schools better by forcing competition. Those against say these schools take money from poor communities and give it to wealthier communities. Betsy DeVos is well-known for her questionable stance on this issue and is seen by many as an enemy of the public school system.

The Trump Administration apparently sees these programs and expenses as wasteful. Perhaps there are some unnecessary expenses in the budget. But cutting all these programs will directly affect the resources schools have to teach our children. We may need to rely on ourselves and the good will of others to make sure our children have access to education materials which schools may be strapped to provide.

What can we do about it?

Support Literacy Programs

Reading is fundamental. It’s an expression and a necessity for learning. Without being able to read, your quality of life will be jeopardized. If you can read, you open your world up to so many new ideas, stories and places. We need to support those who are trying to help our children read more.

In the current political culture, we may have to start taking matters into our own hands. Take advantage of any community resources available.

For example, Country singer Dolly Parton started her own program to provide books and to encourage reading in her Tennessee community. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library was started in 1995. This program provided new books to families each month at no cost to them. Her goal was to make books and reading materials accessible to all.

Her program became so popular that in 2000, she offered to help other communities across the country partner with her and implement their own programs. Individuals, corporations and companies helped support and fund her initiatives. Today, over 1,600 local communities provide books to over a million children through Dolly’s Imagination Libraries each month. Her program has spread across the United State, to Canada and even to the United Kingdom.

Research has shown that Dolly’s Imagination Libraries have improved early childhood literacy. How could it not? Making books available to all and making reading fun could only lead to higher literacy and a better appreciation of books.

Initiatives like this may see a spark in the next few years, especially if the current administration keeps the promises it’s making about education. If you’re passionate about education quality in your community, do some research and see if there are any programs like this one in your area, or a means by which you can sponsor or start one. It may be our saving grace.

Frequent Your Library

Be honest. How often do you go to your library? Library attendance is on the decline. Libraries are great institutions of learning and they are free to the public. Most people don’t take full advantage of the services their libraries offer. Of course you can check out books, but you can also take classes, join interest groups and even find job training.

Resources include computers, videos, talking books and many other things you may not think to search for. Some libraries allow you to borrow tools and even musical instruments. You just have to go to your library to find out what they have to offer that might be of interest to you. Encourage your children to go to the library at a young age so they will always be interested in learning as well as reading.

Make Your Own Library

Little Free Libraries have been popping up all across the country. Little Free Library is a non-profit organization which inspires reading and fosters neighborhood book exchanges all across the United States and around the world. This group enlists the support of volunteers to build attractive little “houses” which are stocked with books which are free and accessible to the entire community.

The concept is simple. You take a book and return it when you’re done. If you want to donate a book, you just put it inside the house. It’s a great way to share with your neighborhood. It works on the honor system and users are encouraged to keep the library stocked with great books that everyone can enjoy. This is another free and fun way to make reading a priority in your child’s life.

The government is supposed to be for the people and run by the people. But as far as education is concerned, we may be seeing some changes which force us to take action locally. You can make a difference by always encouraging reading and learning, and by helping others do the same. Government budget cuts don’t have to affect our desire to read and our desire to learn. Government budget cuts don’t have to keep us from reaching out and helping each other.

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About the author

Kate Harveston