Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public Education – A Continuing Debacle

The Cato Institute has compiled an extremely instructive chart which compares escalating educational costs with resultant “achievement.” It covers the period from 1970 to 2009 showing the soaring per-pupil costs compared to the flat line results of student mastery of the core curricula—reading, math, and science. It deserves your careful examination.

(Ed. – We have had serious difficulty posting this graph, go to this link for an expandable copy.  )

If you choose to disregard this table, and ignore its importance to you and your children, you will join the millions of others who have allowed it to take place. This represents fiscal irresponsibility in its premier hour. “It’s for the children” is a lofty phrase used to raise funds for ever increasing allotments for school district’s infrastructure and burgeoning staff. Among the items which have exacerbated the cost figures are those which have little to do with increasing knowledge: facilities, pensions, unions, layers of administration, student transportation, sophisticated equipment, etc... Bringing the student population up to a level to cope in today’s world is obviously not the goal of school districts. Feathering the nest of the school bureaucracy is the modern centerpiece of education.

The Department of Education (DE) was created during the Carter administration and began operations in mid-1980. Thirty years later, with 5000 employees, and a current annual budget of $68,600,000,000.00, (68.6 billion) there is little evidence to support that the federal agency has accomplished anything to enhance the learning capacity of those it was advertised to aid. For the 55,203,000 K-12 students, this represents $1242 each annually from the federal government to prepare them for life as an adult. According to the chart above, it would have been a better investment to have sent each one a check. Keep in mind this represents only 8.5% of the total educational outlay. The balance is supplied by states, local entities and private sources.

Our total annual educational budget is in excess of half a trillion dollars. Is it unreasonable to expect, for that sum, that student achievement might increase by an insignificant 1% per year? How about, we settle for a mere .5% per year? What sort of fiscal fool would make any investment over forty years with no return (0-zip!-nada!-zilch!) on those monies? In reality, the achievement level has actually dropped! Worse than getting no return, we are actually losing day by day.

Even though DE is the poster child for useless government agencies with their wasteful and inappropriate priorities, attempts to eliminate it have proven extremely difficult. Even more difficult and more dangerous as well, is the affect of unions on the education of our youth. Their dedication is to the enhancement of the lives of the teachers and the union hierarchy. Dismissal of deadwood in a K-12 faculty has proven nearly impossible as a result. If you doubt the presence of “deadwood”, return for one more visit to the above chart.

This waste and inefficiency lies comfortably beside most of the other problems which occupy an inflated government. Obviously, the solution is to minimize the federal influence and return to state sovereignty. No more logical or necessary activity needs be accomplished than to get the fed out of the ed business along with many others where there is equivalent inefficiency. If one cannot understand this attempt to tear down America through the destruction of our most valuable asset, our youngsters, then there is no hope for the republic.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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