We’re starting to seethe broad outlines of a budget plan that Republican lawmakers will present this week to slash $4 trillion in spending over the next decade. At first blush this sounds bad, bad, bad for education revenue—we don’t yet know what the plan entails in terms of federal K-12 spending—but maybe not. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the plan would “essentially end Medicare” (and replace it with private insurance plans, subsidized by the government), plus:

The proposal would also convert Medicaid, the health program for the poor, into a series of block grants to give states more flexibility. And it is expected to suggest significant cuts in Social Security, while proposing fewer details on how to achieve them.

No doubt this will enrage the senior lobby—who will declare all of this dead on arrival. But to my eye, it puts Republicans firmly on the side of the young. If we don’t address these entitlements, we’ll have no choice but to devastate K-12 education budgets (and other social spending for children) for decades to come. Even huge tax increases won’t be enough to address the long-term fiscal challenges (and most economists would tell you that those would be counterproductive anyway, as they would cripple the economy).

As for Medicaid, as we know from our home-state of Ohio, it has become the major competitor to K-12 funding—and more often than not is winning that fight.

I understand the downside to declaring generational warfare, but still, let’s be honest: We can’t keep spending so much on lavish retirement and health-care benefits for the old if we want to do right by the young. So before you reflexively deride this week’s GOP budget proposal consider this: It just might pave the way for greater investments in our schools.

—Mike Petrilli

Last updated April 4, 2011