Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Throwing Money at 'Education'

I welcome more funding of education infrastructure projects and increased aid to college-bound students. The New York Times is reporting (Stimulus Plan Would Provide Flood of Aid to Education by Sam Dillon) the tsunami of money that's being targeted for education. CT's share is near the bottom (what's new?).
The formulas by which the stimulus money for public schools would be allocated to states and local districts are complex, but take into consideration numbers of school-age children in poor families. The level received per student would vary considerably by state, according to an analysis by the New America Foundation, a research group that monitors education spending. New York would be among the biggest beneficiaries, at $760 per student, while New Jersey and Connecticut would fall near the bottom, with $427 and $409 per student, respectively. The District of Columbia would get the most per student, $1,289, according to the foundation’s analysis.

The foundation contends, however, that the formula does not effectively allocate the most money to states with the greatest need.

In recent years the federal government has contributed 9 percent of the nation’s total spending on public schools, with states and local districts financing the rest. Washington has contributed 19 percent of spending on higher education. The stimulus package would raise those federal proportions significantly.

The Department of Education’s discretionary budget for the 2008 fiscal year was about $60 billion. The stimulus bill would raise that to about $135 billion this year, and to about $146 billion in 2010. Other federal agencies would administer about $20 billion in additional education-related spending.

“This really marks a new era in federal education spending,” said Edward Kealy, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a coalition of 90 education groups.

The bill would increase 2009 fiscal year spending on Title I, a program of specialized classroom efforts to help educate poor children, to $20 billion from about $14.5 billion, and raise spending on education for disabled children to $17 billion from $11 billion.

Those increases respond to longtime demands by teachers unions, school boards and others that Washington fully finance the mandates laid out for states and districts in the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law, and in the main federal law regulating special education.

“We’ve been arguing that the federal government hasn’t been living up to its commitments, but these increases go a substantial way toward meeting them,” said Joel Packer, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

Frederick Hess, an education policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, criticized the bill as failing to include mechanisms to encourage districts to bring school budgets in line with property tax revenues, which have plunged with the bursting of the real estate bubble.

“It’s like an alcoholic at the end of the night when the bars close, and the solution is to open the bar for another hour,” Mr. Hess said.

The bill would, for the first time, involve the federal government in a significant fashion in the building and renovation of schools, which has been the responsibility of states and districts. It includes $20 billion for school renovation and modernization, with $14 billion for elementary and secondary schools and $6 billion for higher education. It also includes tax provisions under which the federal government would pay the interest on construction bonds issued by school districts.

Mr. Duncan said the bill’s school renovation provisions would create a “huge number of construction jobs,” because so many school buildings need repairs.

But Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California and the ranking minority member of the House education committee, said, “By putting the federal government in the business of building schools, Democrats may be irrevocably changing the federal government’s role in education in this country.”

In higher education, the bill would increase spending on Pell Grants, the most important federal student aid program, to $27 billion from about $19 billion this year.
What disturbs me is the very idea that No Child Left Behind - the worst idea affecting children on this planet - is being funded.

The funding it needs is dissolution.

Please god, pull the plug on this monstrosity of an education program. It deserves not a penny of public funding. Furthermore, school budgets need to be tightened not sustained at unsustainable levels. Taxpayers are no longer employees with disposable incomes. Education cannot become an entitlement program of unlimited benefits and runaway costs when the private sector is crippled.

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