Sunday, November 7, 2010

Put Department of Education in Timeout, Then Abolish It.

If you will continue reading the Washington Times article, you will see that the Dept. of Ed. is a protector of the teachers unions and, money spent is not for the teachers or the classrooms, but for the vast bureaucracy, the unions, and the perpetuation of public education, at the expense of the more efficient and innovative private sector schools.

All the Federal money that has been spent has had no favorable effect on learning and has only succeeded in increased bureaucratic paperwork for teachers, using their time inefficiently and increasing teacher turnover.

The recommendation for a 5 year, 20% per year reduction in funding, is ingenious and is far too generous. Unfortunately, very little can be accomplished until 2012, and only if financial conservatives have a good year in the elections.

The U.S. Department of Education was created with the primary stated goal of increasing students' test scores, but test scores for 17-year-old American students have remained essentially flat since 1970. The department's budget has grown to a whopping $107 billion this year. Per pupil, taxpayer-financed education spending (adjusted for inflation) has risen by more than 200 percent since 1970 (and 150-plus percent since 1980). Clearly and unambiguously, the department deserves a grade of F.

The employees and bureaucrats at Education have been rewarded for failure each year by ever-increasing budgets, which give them more control of state education departments and local school boards. If you reward failure, you tend to get more of it, and if you reward success, you tend to get more successes. Thus, it is no surprise that test scores have not improved.

Many of the just-elected members of Congress have called for elimination of the Department of Education. The department was created under the Carter presidency in 1979. President Reagan subsequently tried to abolish it but was rebuffed by the Democratic Congress at that time. Despite the fact that the objective case is strong for abolishing the department, the National Education Association (NEA) and the other teachers unions that form the core of support for the department are probably still sufficiently strong to prevent that from happening, particularly as long as President Obama has his veto pen.

What the new Congress can and should do, however, is to greatly reduce the department's budget. Suppose Congress said to the department, "We are going to cut your budget and payroll by 20 percent per year until test scores start improving, and if they have not substantially improved within five years, the department will be dust." What do you think would happen to test scores?

Read Washington Times article here.

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