Group Decries Policies That Set Military’s Need Over Children’s

By Alina Tugend — June 24, 2019 2 min read

WASHINGTON—President Reagan’s budget policies are creating an “American apartheid” by directing money toward the military at the expense of the needy, according to a budget analysis released last week by the Children’s Defense Fund.

The study charges that 21 percent of all American children live below the poverty line, yet the President’s budget proposes to cut $33 billion from programs for children and families over the next five years.

Specifically in the area of education, the analysis notes that between 1979-80 and 1984-85, the federal government’s share of the nation’s total education expenditures dropped from 9.2 percent to 6.2 percent.

In addition, between 1979 and 1984, 550,000 fewer students were served under the Chapter 1 program for disadvantaged children, the analysis states.

And since the Administration’s budget for fiscal year 1987—which proposes slashing Education Department funding from last year’s appropriation of $18.4 billion to $15.2 billion—has frozen funding for Chapter 1 at 1986 levels, without adjustments for inflation, another 260,000 children would lose services, it contends.

Reverse Priorities

Unless these budget priorities are reversed, “by 1990, every American will be spending 21 percent less on poor children and 58 percent more on the military than we did in 1980,” said Marian Wright Edelman, C.D.F. president. “These policies are creating a new American apartheid between rich and poor, white and black, old and young, government and needy, corporation and individual, military and domestic needs.”

The study urges the federal government to increase funds for education programs of “proven effectiveness"—such as Chapter 1 in elementary schools, handicapped and bilingual education, and magnet schools. It also recommends an expansion of Chapter 1 services in middle schools, development of remedial education in community-learning centers, and funding for dropouts.

Budget Cuts

The C.D.F. budget analysis also charges that:

  • Teen employment rates are at historically low levels, but the President’s budget proposal halves the amount of money directed at the Job Corps-the residential program that serves “hard-core” unemployed youth.
  • While two-thirds of the homeless in New York City and 40 percent of the homeless in Chicago and Boston are families with children, the President proposes to cut $10 billion from the budget for low- and moderate-income housing next year.
  • The four basic child-nutrition programs-school lunches, school breakfasts, child-care food, and summer food-were reduced 29 percent between fiscal 1982 and fiscal 1985. As a result, the number of children receiving school lunches each day fell by about 2 million, after adjusting for changes in school enrollment.
  • Regardless of race, students from poor families are three to four times more likely to drop out of school than those from more affluent households. In addition, disadvantaged young women, also regardless of race, are three to four times more likely to become unwed mothers than their more advantaged peers.

A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 1986 edition of Education Week

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