TAXPAYER BILLIONS WASTED ON EDUCATION
By Alan Caruba
Recently, Neal McCluskey, an education policy analyst at the Cato Institute, published an analysis, A Lesson in Waste? Where Does All the Federal Education Money Go? It should be mandatory reading for every Senator and Representative in Congress. The White House should read it. At the very least, it can and should be read by the Governors of these United States. And you should read it too.
A billion dollars is a lot of money. Now multiply that by 108 and you get a figure of such monumental waste that one wonders why there isn’t rioting in the streets. There is, however, a growing restive feeling among citizens and policy-makers that something is desperately wrong. This has been accelerated by the passage of President Bush’s answer to education failure, the No Child Left Behind Act. McCluskey says, “a revolt against federal control of education is brewing.” I hope he is right.
“Despite the huge infusion of federal cash,” writes McCluskey, “and the near tripling of overall per pupil funding since 1965, national academic performance has not improved. Math and reading scores have stagnated, graduation rates have flat lined, and researchers have shown numerous billion-dollar federal programs to be failures.”
McCluskey asserts: “The nation as a whole must determine if the federal presence in American education should continue at all.”
Here’s my answer: NO! Being fond of the U.S. Constitution, no amount of reading reveals the word “education” anywhere in it. Indeed, the Framers of the Constitution did not want the federal government involved in education, a requirement of an educated electorate that they understood should be the province of local communities and of the member-states of the American federal union.
Today, the only thing states can do, if they do not wish to be put under the iron hand of the federal government, is to refuse to accept federal funding for education. To put it another way, they must refuse to accept the taxpayer’s money which their own citizens have had taken from them by the federal government!
Moreover, there has been a federal funding explosion under the administration of President George W. Bush, a man who declares himself to be a Conservative! What is wrong with this picture? “One of the largest funding increases,” notes McCluskey, “has occurred in just the last four years; funds allocated to the Department (of Education) rose from $38.4 billion in 2000 to $63.3 billion in 2004, a 65 percent leap.”
The Department of Education is not the only one involved in spending federal dollars on education programs. There are six other departments involves -- Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development. The return we get for the billion expended is worse than pathetic; it is the criminal “dumbing down” of whole generations of American students.
One of the most egregious examples of how education funds are wasted is an $8.4 million program, “Exchanges with Historic Whaling and Trading Partners.” It vies with the $119.3 million program for the “Teaching of Traditional American History initiative.” The former funnels $2 million each to the New Bedford Whaling Museum and similar outfits and the latter does the same for the Inupiat Heritage Center, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and other allied groups with their snout in the federal trough.
It should be obvious that federal programs should expend funds to the benefit of all students, but these examples demonstrate how programs in Massachusetts and Alaska benefit only those with access to them.
One can point to virtually every one of the socalled education programs and find one example after another of failure. The second largest, Head Start, cost nearly $6.8 billion in 2004. Studies have demonstrated that attendees show a slight advantage over their peers for a year or so and then, thanks to the mind numbing educational system, those gains disappear. Similarly, a relatively new program, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, kicked off in 1995 with a budget of $847,000 now is funded to the tune of nearly $1 billion and this after school program has not yet demonstrated any “influence on academic performance,” nor much else of value.
What is the answer? Congress must end the federal government’s stranglehold on education and return its governance to the states and to local communities. The typical one-size-fits-all federal answer to everything, combined with the use of massive amounts of taxpayer funding to coerce submission to its failed programs, has produced an education system that threatens the future of the nation.
As far back as 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education released a report, A Nation at Risk, which warned, “if an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on American the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” The war on the future of our nation’s children and youth continues.
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