Former Darlington Labour MP Alan Milburn has said education must remain a priority for investment.
The former cabinet minister, who is now social mobility tsar to the coalition government, was speaking ahead of Wednesday's Spending Review.
He said there must be investment in all levels of education.
He also said he would be concerned if plans to end the cap on tuition fees damaged universities such as Sunderland or Teesside.
Mr Milburn spoke to BBC Look North political editor Richard Moss.
He said: "I understand the short-term pressures on public spending and tough decisions undoubtedly have got to be taken, but education has to remain the long-term priority for investment in this country.
"Because it is going to drive economic progress in the future and it's going to drive social progress as well.
"What I want to see is us continuing to do what Labour did when it was in office and that is to put an increasing share of our national wealth into education.
"That means higher education, early years education as well as schools and colleges."
Speaking about the review of university funding which suggested a cap on tuition fees should be lifted, Mr Milburn said he would be concerned if it meant local universities such as Sunderland or Teesside lost out.
See more on The Politics Show, BBC One, Sunday, 1200 BST.