Tradition dictates that with an ante of two cents, I can gain admission into the game. The problem with this concept is that, at this point in the electoral process, everybody has two cents, and they all are willing to offer up their "two cents worth" of opinion. The beauty of America is that my opinion is just as valid and important as, say, Matt Damon's opinion.
Barack Obama has set the news wires afire with the news that he has finally come up with a plan to save us all, a plan that will produce jobs and get our hands unstuck from that gooey economic flypaper. We must wait until September to hear what the plan contains, but I have an uneasy feeling that the plan will involve items that didn't make it into the debt ceiling increase act. You know the kind of things I mean: tax increases (perhaps by another name), increased spending for new programs to make education available to all, any number of projects to build infrastructure that will ensure the jobs will go to union members. There is no new thing under the sun.
When the budget hawks start circling, one of the options they mention is the elimination of the federal Department of Education. While the department provides many important programs, including Pell Grants that enable lower income students to attend college, much of the ire that's directed toward it arises from its involvement in local education. Local education has historically been the responsibility of county and state governments, and only in the last 30 years has the federal government interjected its sticky fingers into elementary and secondary schools. We can all see how successful that has been. Many of the Department of Education's programs are designed to fix the problems that its programs have caused.
At this site http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget12/summary/edlite-section3.html you will find a list of programs that the Department of Education has designated to be eliminated or consolidated into other, redundant programs. I counted 62 programs on that list. My first question is how did we get to the point where the government even has 62 programs? And these are only excess programs that even the Department of Education admits we can live without.
Unfortunately the Department is asking for increased funding for the programs into which some of these "redundant" programs will be integrated.
The total cost of the programs on this list amount to $5,745,200,000. That's five BILLION. For programs which the Department of Education, by its own terminology, classifies as unnecessary. The total budget request for the Department of Education for fiscal year 2012 is $77.4 BILLION dollars, an increase of $7.5 billion dollars. So the department is making the tough choice of cutting programs that amount to $5 billion dollars and asking for $7 billion dollars more. What a way to cut the budget.
There are some interesting programs on that list. The alcohol abuse reduction program is designed to reduce alcohol abuse in high schools. According to SADD statistics 72% of students consume alcohol by the end of high school, and 37% do so by the eighth grade. Another successful federal government intervention.
The charter schools grant program comes in at a cost of $256 million dollars. The question that arises is: why is the federal government doing this? Isn't this a function of state and local governments? The civic education program spends $35 million dollars to improve the quality of civic and government education. When I was in high school, we just took a civics class and paid attention. It didn't cost the federal government any money at all.
The department developed a program called "Even Start" which implemented programs in low-income areas to improve opportunities for families. This program got the can because stats show that it was totally ineffective. It only took $66 million dollars a year to find this out.
A program called "Striving Readers" was expanded in 2010 at a cost of $250 million dollars to improve reading skills from birth to grade 12. Newborns are now checking out library books. Of course, these activities will be folded into another one called "Effective Teaching and Learning".
Well, the list goes on. And the test scores go down. In spite of all the money spent on education by the federal government, our schools do not fare well when compared to international test scores. To paraphrase Samuel Taylor Coleridge, redundancy, redundancy everywhere, and not a dime to spare.