April 11 2013
No, Education Advocates Aren’t All Cheering Obama’s Plans
Carrie L. Lukas
One expects politicians selling their pet projects to talk about them as “investments” and the surefire path to a more desirable future. One would hope that journalists would be a bit more skeptical.
Sadly, that isn’t always the case. Christian Science Monitor, for example, reports on the President’s plan to increase federal spending on education, particularly his new federal preschool program, by echoing the Administration’s rhetoric that it will of course translate into a huge boost in the educational opportunities for American children. Here’s a sample of the glowing coverage:
With his budget proposal Wednesday, President Obama signaled once again that education – from early childhood all the way through college and career training – is a priority investment.
Education advocates have their chance to cheer now, but they know that many of their hopes may be dashed by a Congress that’s holding the purse strings tight.
The Department of Education would receive $71.2 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal year 2014. That’s up 4.5 percent from the 2013 funding before the “sequester” kicked in, but it doesn’t add to the deficit because of other offsets, the administration noted. Overall spending is increased by 2.5 percent in the $3.8 trillion budget.
Well golly, I consider myself an “education advocate”—an advocate of mom and apple pie too!—but I’m sure not cheering the President’s plan to dump more federal money into an unreformed, already under-performing education system.
Those familiar with the last 50 years of education policy know that the link between education spending and results is rather tenuous, and there is just about nothing to suggest that the federal government’s increased funding of and involvement in education has led to better results or a more educated next generation.
This CS Monitor reporter—and most reporters on the education beat, for that matter—shouldn’t just accept the claims by those in the preschool business that more government preschool funding is really a magical investment guaranteed to yield fabulous returns for taxpayers.
Does anyone have any ground to suggest that Head Start—the current federal program to provide preschool for disadvantaged toddlers—has worked out this way? In fact, as Charlotte mentioned yesterday, government studies have found no lasting benefits associated with enrollment in Head Start, so why are we to believe that this newest foray into pre-k would be any different?
Being an “education advocate” doesn’t mean being an advocate of great federal funding for education. I am a firm believer that we need to make sure that children in America, rich and poor, have access to a first-rate education. That’s why I support reforms that encourage innovation: charter schools, online schools and curriculums, and programs that free parents to use public resources to find the opportunities that best-suit their child’s unique needs.
I’m not cheering the President’s education plans in his budget because I don’t think dumping more taxpayer money will do much to help kids learn more. This reporter also ought to be a little more skeptical of the Administration’s claim that every penny of new spending will be offset, that’s what they said about ObamaCare too right? Now it’s estimated to add more than $6 trillion to the debt? Oops. Just a minor mistake that no one could have seen coming.
With some it seems this Administration’s credibility will never wear out.