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Spending and teaching — a great marriage

You want to stimulate the economy? Encourage learning.

As far as I’m concerned, education — or the lack thereof — is somehow involved in just about every social and financial problem we have.

We’ve all heard the numbers over and over. People without high school educations are more likely to go to prison, have failed marriages or children out of wedlock, become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

I’ve even seen studies that say people without a high school or college diploma are more likely to get into car accidents and less likely to have insurance. If that’s not a double whammy, I don’t know what is.

So basically, can we chalk this up by saying when we let children fall through the cracks, we contribute to the overall ruination of society? You have three seconds to provide a theory more accurate … 2 …1 … Exactly.

Figures from the stimulus package by Barack Obama’s administration have ballooned from $825 billion to almost $890 billion.

No matter the number, no matter if you think it’s right or wrong, you have to be cognizant of two things.

One, it’s going to pass. It will undoubtedly look vastly different from the bill talked about several weeks ago. But aside from Republicans putting up the expected huffy resistance to save face, this turkey is glazed and ready for carving.

Second, this does us no good in the long run if there aren’t some serious attitude adjustments on the national and local levels.

And I’m not just talking about in government.

This bailout money, which is essentially what it is, allows us to spend money freely again (and I say that in totally relative terms) so we need to make sure we spend it wisely.

Like you, I’ve had several questions and concerns about how this phenomenal amount of money is allocated.

It’s easy for me to sit here and say, “We need do a better job of educating students.” But you need things like textbooks, supplies, and, well, adequate teacher salaries if you send kids to school and expect them to bring something meaningful back.

It seems like the suits on Capitol Hill are making the effort to get involved in the aspect of education that’s most important — K-12.

The bill earmarks $14 billion for elementary and secondary schools. An additional $20 billion is set aside for school renovation and modernization nationwide.

Alabama’s share, based on figures released Wednesday, comes to $355 million for school modernization, $16 million for education technology grants and $12 million for Head Start.

That’s far from adequate, but hey, it helps. Think of this as the first couple of steps. Congress is trying to set us on the right path, not run the entire race for us. It’s our job as local communities to take the baton and finish.

Still, that leaves the question of what will happen to students after high school? Money for grants is drying up so fast you can develop a dust allergy walking into college financial aid offices.

Seems the government got a jump on this problem, too. Funding for Pell grants will increase 70 percent, from $19 billion to about $27 billion.

Overall, the Department of Education’s $60 million discretionary budget will more than double this year. It will more than triple next year.

That’s what I call smart spending.

Let’s not wait for the check to arrive, though. It doesn’t take any money to get a child a book from the library. It’s just as inexpensive and only slightly more trouble to check behind his or her homework.

And as long as you’re not telling teachers everything they could do better, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind hearing from you once in a while.

It’s not economics. It’s plain, old common sense.