"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Bad Romance Novel: The Relationship Between Taxpayers and the Department of Education

If you follow education "reform" closely it will make you a bit crazy from time to time. Why crazy? Maybe public education systems are just like any area the government has its fingers into...the bureaucracy becomes so burdened with regulations, mandates, budgets, funding being moved from one pot to another, crony capitalism, that the regular citizen finally throws up his/her hands in frustration trying to determine the fundamental truth of what is occurring and if these regulations are actually helping students.

Some taxpayers insist the reason public education is failing is because there is not enough funding. This is in direct opposition to the fact that since the Department of Education (DOE) has been established, spending on education has increased 190% over four decades for flatlined test scores. So if we discount the argument that money is the answer for educational reform, we still are faced with the question: why are test scores not improving?

I've thought for some time that one of the reasons our test scores are abysmal is because of the centralized education model and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates districts have been forced to adopt. I've wondered if it would be possible for my school district to stop the marriage between it and the Federal Government. My district receives a whopping 2% Federal money, but yet, it has to adhere to 100% of the mandates the Federal government demands. Why should a district be forced to adopt mandates for a paltry 2% budget supplement?

The DOE still insists more mandates, more centralized control and more money is needed so that more schools don't fail. Lindsey Burke of Heritage has written an excellent piece in exploring Arne Duncan's statement that 82% of the nation's schools may not be sufficiently educating children. Her reasons for this failure are quite different than Duncan's:

However, all the Department of Education’s murky 82 percent estimate demonstrates is the shortcomings of federal education policy when it comes to evaluating actual academic standing or improving academic achievement. Decades of growing intervention in local schools has led to increasing red tape levied on schools and school districts in order to comply with and receive federal funding. The federal government’s accountability tools are very blunt, yet they undermine and distract those closer to students who are equipped to judge students’ academic needs more precisely.

The quest for education funding and compliance with federal mandates has shifted states’ attention upward to Washington and away from the parents and taxpayers to whom they should be most accountable.

Bingo. She goes on to make more excellent points:

... a Virginia school district calculated that the additional cost associated with training staff on the new provisions of NCLB “is equivalent to the cost of hiring 72 additional teachers … ten … instructional assistants … [and] four additional assistant principals” who could have had direct “interface … with the community’s children.”

Additionally, for years Washington has taken state tax dollars, “running that money through the Washington bureaucracy and sending it back to states,” rather than allowing it to flow directly to schools. As a result, a significant proportion of those dollars never makes it to students.

Thus, it’s no wonder that hundreds of programs and billions of federal dollars later, the nation’s students have made virtually no academic gains.

And while the Obama Administration claims that its proposed education reforms will be “fair and flexible and focused on the schools,” the plans simply promote the same federal regulation that the federal government has pushed for more than five decades.

The Democrat AND Republican politicians on both the state and national levels, are traveling down the same road and are expecting different results. How is that for political astuteness?

I had a written exchange with a couple of educational wonks about this article on Delaware trying to meet its obligations to the Race to the Top mandates it signed onto. It hasn't been easy or cheap. The question posed by the person forwarding the article: "Too big to fail"? Answers to that question included: "Too big to succeed, the goals are impossible, funding is inadequate, parents are removed from the process, too centralized to care".

This chapter in educational history should be written down in the future as a science fiction or a horror novel. It almost reads like a bad romance novel. Picture this: imagine the DOE as a suitor in a relationship. The suitor is trying to talk the leading lady (the taxpayer) into buying into promises of taking care of her and her future children by providing a strong educational foundation. She does a background check on the DOE's record of achievement! She discovers the department can't deliver, won't deliver, is broke, lies, and is so full of rigid mandates, nothing innovative can't and or couldn't develop in the relationship.

If the intended is smart, she'll cut the suitor off cold turkey. The suitor will provide nothing the intended needs or wants, and in fact, the suitor will end up saddling the intended with so much debt, she will probably have to declare bankruptcy if she continues on with the relationship. Why would she want to keep the suitor around? She would be better off living her life on her own.

Stop the unhealthy and crazy love relationship between the taxpayer and the DOE. Maybe then we'll restore sanity into the educational delivery for children.


  1. I like the analogy to a bad romance novel.
    For the last 30 years, each administration declared an education crisis. Current education reform efforts use the same rationale - we are in an education crisis. They derive false assumptions from international test scores as evidence. We have legitimate problems that require targeted solutions; but current efforts compel costly and complicated solution for unstated problems on the entire nation.

    Just like a sweet talking gigilo who takes a gal for a fool or a hot looking lady who kisses her way for a loan and disappears - fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

    We aren't fooled.

  2. Sandra, we might not be, but the politicans have convinced themselves that they're right,

    Heard a great deal of talk last year, before the election about doing away with the Department of Education..

    Might be worth serious consideration.

  3. "If the intended is smart, she'll cut the suitor off cold turkey."

    If the intended is smart.


    Given the tyrants wooing ways, the intended's willingness to be wooed along with their dipsomaniacal round heeled representatives as chaperones... I'm afraid it's far more likely we'll not only wind up with an extremely expensive and badly produced porno, but a boring one at that.


  4. The is a HUGE cadre of people who make their living off of fooling the public regarding "education" - i.e. anyone who wants to cut wasteful spending is painted as "not caring" about education.

    Kudos to Congressman Kline! Hope many more (on both sides of the aisle) stand up to educrats and get this country back on track!


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