The main thing I think we should do is prioritize. That way, we can argue for the cuts we want if we are unsuccessful in avoiding them. Off the top of my head, there are five areas of education where money is spent: teaching/learning, assessment of teaching and learning, administration, physical space, and extra-curricular activities.
The whole point of school is learning. Learning does not happen without teaching. It seems to me like this should be the last place we should look for budget cuts, and I find it hard to even come up with “devil’s advocate” arguments.
Assessment of teaching and learning is also important, although I think that K-12 is currently spending way too much on this (at least, they are spending foolishly). More on this below.
Administration is important, regardless of what teachers and faculty members say. It takes a lot keep a school/college/university going. My guess, though, is that we could cut a lot more from administration without drastically affecting student learning.
By “physical space,” I mean heating, cooling, bonds/mortgages/construction, electricity, etc. The importance (and cost) varies by climate, although some schools are getting creative at finding ways of saving money here.
Finally, extra-curricular activities are not essential, although they are tougher to separate out of “teaching and learning” than many people think. However, I think that painful cuts could be made here, if needed.
Now, I agree with the two articles that we should fight cuts to education. Education is an investment in the future (or whatever trite expression you want to insert), and we should be wary about making cuts. I also agree that I am being a little too simplistic, and likely cuts will come from all five categories (including the categories that I did not think of).
However, if we are forced to make cuts, I think that K-12 could view it as an opportunity: K-12 could organize and decide that the least essential part of educating children is the standardized testing of the children. Rather than spending the money buying the tests and spending the time to prepare for the tests, the schools could opt to skip the tests entirely and spend the time on teaching and learning instead. Everybody (except for the companies making the tests) benefits.
This argument is more complex than I am making it sound, since this would result in the loss of the No Child Left Behind money. So there would have to be more cuts to compensate for that. However, we would be doing our children (and teachers) a service, and then we could also feel good about saving the American taxpayer money from having to spend the NCLB funds, too.