Would You Close Your School To Pay For Iraq?

Bill Scher

When Gen. David Petraeus testifies today about the status of the Iraq occupation, I’ll be thinking about my neighborhood elementary school.

Because the Bridge Street School in Northampton, Mass., may have to close for lack of funds, while we continue to waste billions on a failed foreign policy.

My town is facing a shortfall in our school budget between $800,000 to $1 million. We are forced with a choice between closing an entire school, which doesn’t even make up the entire gap, or a series of cuts across the entire school district, including teaching positions, school buses, special education, music and arts education and supplies.

We’re not alone in Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports:

Across Massachusetts, cities and towns face the prospect of deep cuts in what appears to be the grimmest fiscal year since 2003. Local revenue and state aid can’t keep up with such rapidly rising expenses as employee health insurance, heating oil, and even street paving. School costs, like special education requirements, are sapping local budgets. And now beleaguered residents are seeing home values dip even as taxes continue to rise.

And it’s not just Massachusetts, school budgets are being squeezed across the nation.

While we are starved for investment in our schools—not to mention our health, our energy, our environment and our infrastructure—the occupation saps our resources. As Joseph Stiglitz, co-author of “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” said on MSNBC yesterday:

Spending on the war is the worst form of spending. I mean, just think about it. Paying a Nepalese worker to work in Iraq doesn’t stimulate the economy in the same way that spending that same dollar in the United States.

Watch it below:

Paying for cheap Nepalese labor (sometimes lying to lure them into Iraq) doesn’t even help rebuild Iraq’s economic foundation, let alone ours.

How does this relate to the Bridge Street School’s possible closing?

According to the National Priorities Project, while my town of Northampton faces a school budget gap of nearly $1 million, Northampton’s share of the cost of the occupation is a massive $55,800,000.

It is critical that we invest in America’s foundation if we are to thrive in the global economy of the 21st century. If we’re wasting our money on a failed foreign policy, we won’t have the resources to invest in the next generation.

War always has costs. If war is a strategic necessity, then those costs may be worth sacrificing.

But the conservative goal of this war, a permanent military occupation of Iraq, is a dangerous and destabilizing goal not worth one penny or one life.

And we’re paying far more than that.

You can find out from the National Priorities Project how much your town is paying for the occupation.

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