The poor economy must not keep states from investing in education, and states that don't will face consequences later such as lost competitiveness, more dropouts and higher rates of juvenile crime, the head of the National Parent Teacher Association said Tuesday.
"I know people say that, 'Well, the budget's cut; we're facing a deficit,' but you've still got to make a commitment to spend dollars on children," said Byron V. Garrett, the group's CEO. "You will spend it now or you will spend it later because of juvenile justice or other issues."
Garrett, who was in Scottsdale to speak at the Ronald McDonald House Charities U.S. scholarship breakfast, said government and the education system need to work more efficiently with tighter funds.
"We've got to figure out a more effective way to meet the needs of children," Garrett said.
Garrett said funding education was a challenge even before the financial meltdown, though governments continued to invest in business development.
Garrett said some communities in Arizona and other states have more revenue to provide schools than others, creating inequalities in education that need to be addressed.
Garrett said arts, sports and extracurricular activities, which often are targets when budgets become tight, help students stay engaged and develop a love of learning.
When schools can't offer these programs, they should work with businesses and nonprofit groups to make sure children have these opportunities, he said.