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If I Had a Trillion Dollars

Adapted from a story produced on April 12, 2013, by Public News Service - IL.

Young people from Illinois and around the nation will be in Washington, D.C. on tax day, April 15, to let Congress know how they'd like their tax dollars allocated. 

They are among the more than 200 students who produced videos for the American Friends Service Commitee's annual "If I Had a Trillion Dollars" video contest

Dan Neumann, FSM News Technology Coordinator at Free Spirit Media, helps to produce a Chicago youth news show. He recalls that when students were challenged to think about the $1 trillion spent on wars, most said they would rather the money be spent on education. 

One young producer actually based her video entry on the day she realized that her textbook was 30 years old and possibly out of date.

"She opened up the front of the book that her teacher gave her,” Neumann recalls. “You know how they write their names in the front of the book sometimes, but she was looking at the page and her mom's name was on the book."

Education and budget cuts are especially poignant in Chicago where 54 schools are scheduled to close by the end of the year due to budget shortfalls.

Erin Polley, who organized the festival, says it wasn't just the Chicago students who focused on education – it turned out to be a theme in many of the videos. She says students talked about classrooms with 30 or 40 students and no supplies.

"One of the videos just deals with the fact that teachers don't have access to paper any more to print worksheets,” Polley says. “And so the young people don't even have homework to take home with them."

Daphne Hines works and goes to school at North Carolina University, Greensboro. She also produced a video, which focuses on making college more affordable. But she says she also has other ideas for where her tax dollars could go.

"Whenever I look at how much money is taken out of my check,” she says, “and when it adds up how much it is, I would definitely like to see it go to the social programs, because at this point people are struggling."

Festival organizers say young people also asked for funding that could help end gang violence in their communities. 

According to the National Priorities Project only about 3 cents on the dollar go to education and about 4 cents to housing and community.