By Leonard Boasberg

Certain politicians and pundits are telling us we must make sacrifices for our children's future, and by sacrifices they mean cutting government spending, and by cutting government spending they mean sacrificing our children's present.

All over the country, states are cutting funds for K-12 and higher education - drastically in some cases. They're laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, shortening school years, reducing kindergarten from full-day to half-day, and cutting or eliminating arts, sports, and special education.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett proposes to slash $1.6 billion in aid to public schools and universities. The Philadelphia School District is looking at $629 million in cuts.

In New Jersey, Gov. Christie slashed about $1 billion from the last education budget. The state Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling today on whether those cuts violated the state constitution.

And so it goes from New York to California. Meanwhile, America's young people have fallen behind.

"The United States, which once led the world in the percentage of young people with college degrees, now ranks a pathetic 12th among 36 advanced nations," wrote Tamara Draut, vice president of programs and policy at the think tank Demos. American 15-year-olds ranked 17th in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's student assessments - far behind their counterparts in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Finland.

Despite having graduated from high school, nearly a quarter of would-be members of our armed forces can't pass the necessary entrance exam.

Pennsylvania's education secretary, Ron Tomalis, recently told the state House Appropriations Committee, "Educational achievement, or achievement of any kind, cannot be measured in dollars and cents." Well, you can't buy computers or pencils, or pay teachers and janitors, without dollars and cents. But never mind that. He still has a point.

"Make no mistake, it is fundamentally unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight," Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) said of the war in Afghanistan, where we are carrying on a battle to prop up a corrupt, incompetent, untrustworthy shadow of a government.

By my calculations, about three days' worth of our spending in Afghanistan would cover the Philadelphia School District's $629 million shortfall. And a week's worth could take care of Corbett's statewide education cuts.

The Obama administration is asking for $117.8 billion to continue funding a war we never should have gotten into and another war we can't get out of. I think it's long past time to reconsider our priorities.

Leonard Boasberg is a former Inquirer reporter and Editorial Board member who lives in Wayne. He can be reached at lboasberg@gmail.com.