Stop the government school spending binge

Not satisfied with the $100B from last year’s “stimulus” package, the Education Department (along with the teachers’ unions) are citing another “crisis in education” to get even more tax dollars. If they don’t get these funds, they claim that up to 300,000 teachers could be laid off. (story here from Heritage.org)

On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan tried to publicly shore-up support for the $23 billion “Education Jobs Fund” being considered by Congress. Flanked by union heads Dennis Van Roekel (President, National Education Association) and Randi Weingarten (President, American Federation of Teachers) and Representatives Dave Obey (D-WI) and George Miller (D-CA), Secretary Duncan pleaded for additional taxpayers dollars:

School boards and state legislatures are finalizing their education budgets for the upcoming school year and many face tough choices about whether to retain teachers and continue programs that are vital to their ability to provide a world-class education for their students. We must act quickly and responsibly to provide schools the resources they need so they don’t have to make choices that would not be in the best interests of their students and teachers.

Yadda Yadda Yadda. The same old tired mantra that we don’t spend enough on education. Even the Washington Post, another propaganda arm of the government, is calling “bullshit” on this:

The unions predict layoffs could go as high as 300,000. It’s hard to imagine losing that many teachers without some damage to learning.

But that many teachers almost certainly are not going to lose their jobs. For technical reasons, school districts must send notices in the spring to more teachers than they actually expect to let go in the fall. What’s more, the unions’ 300,000 estimate includes not only classroom teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade but also support staff and college professors. The bill would distribute money to states according to their population, not expected layoffs; states where no layoffs are imminent would get checks anyway, and the majority of states would receive more than they could possibly need to avoid layoffs. The Senate version of the bill permits them to spend the excess on other things.

According to this story (from AP), congressional democrats are dropping this into an already pork stuffed bill for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So the solution to this “crisis” is to throw even more money at it. For decades America’s collective reasoning has been anesthetised by the myth of more spending equals a better education system. Education spending has increased exponentially while educational outcomes have remained, at best, flat. Yes we need reform in education but that certainly doesn’t mean higher spending. One place where we can start the reform process is by getting rid of teachers’ unions which have demonstrated time and again that they are not at all interested in what’s best for the students.

Last year, the Department of Education received an unprecedented $98 billion through the so-called stimulus. Although that money was supposed to span a two-year period, Congress and the Obama administration are already asking taxpayers for billions more to support unsustainable public education spending. Instead of coming back to taxpayers for another public sector bailout, states should work on cutting costs in areas that are long overdue for reform: age-old tenure practices, teacher compensation and pension reform. Not only would this prevent already overburdened taxpayers from incurring more debt, but it would put states on a path toward meaningful education reform.

For more information on what we really spend on education, here’s an article (from the Cato Institute) that puts the lie to the “official” cost figures you often see. When you read that your school district spends X dollars per pupil, that figure is often lowballed – the real costs are, in many cases, much higher.

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