Guest Saturday with A Conservative Teacher

The following article was originally published by A Conservative Teacher onWednesday, September 24, 2011.


Abolish the Department of Education- What
Does the Data Suggest?


The Cato Institute put together the graph you see on this post which shows the amount of federal spending on education relative to the reading, math, and science scores in our nation. As you can see, the amount of federal spending per pupil has increased quite a bit since the federal Department of Education was created, growing almost 190%, from a budget of $13.1 billion (in 2007 dollars) in 1980 to $77.8 billion by 2011. And yet, in spite of the massive increase in federal spending, scores have remained flat. Two conclusions can be drawn from this.

The first conclusion, that many liberals and progressives may be a part of, is that without that massive investment in education that massively increased every year, that our test scores would have gone down and the educational achievement of our students would be quite a bit lower than it is today. Just like the arguments that these groups advance to support the stimulus spending of the federal government (“imagine how bad unemployment would have been if Obama hadn’t mortgaged our children’s future to China- why, it might have gone over 10%!”), this group would argue that the deluge in federal funds staved off the utter collapse of our educational system
and demonstrated that if only we would have spent double or triple more, than our NEAP scores may have even gone up. And if increased spending does not result in higher test scores, that is only because they would have gone down if not for the higher spending, so the spending at the very least kept the scores constant because we all know George W. Bush hated teachers and education.

The second conclusion that one could reach when looking at the data, a conclusion that many conservatives and tea party people might agree to, is that the massive spending in education at the federal level was largely a waste of money and did nothing to improve our test scores. Much like the arguments that these groups advance to oppose the stimulus spending of the federal government today (“imagine if our nation would not have blown several trillion in dollars on nothing during the Obama administration- our children might actually have a future and the unemployment numbers would look basically the same!”), this group would argue that all of the spending done at the federal level is having little to no effect on test scores for students because the money is being gobbled up by bureaucrats in Washington who are far removed from the real educating of students at the local level. They would suggest spending less amounts on education at the federal level and seeing what might happen- perhaps test scores would remain flat as they have done for over 30 years, but if this happens than our nation could save that $77 billion dollars/year and use it in other areas where it might be needed or not use it at all and have our government run a balanced budget.

One of these conclusions is reasonable, measured, and supported by the data. The other conclusion is not. I’ll let you be the judge of which is which.

H/T Doug Ross


10 thoughts on “Guest Saturday with A Conservative Teacher

  1. I would like to do totally away with the Dept. of Education. It is pretty well irrelevant anyway. The states are perfectly capable of handling edu. in their states, as well as the local communities. There is really no reason education should be standard across the board when the needs of children vary in locality depending on what jobs are available. There is no need for everyone to have a college edu. It just leaves people with a tremendous debt and often with no job because they are over qualified. If the local communities could rely on teaching what is needed for industry, people would have better education, with lower costs and provide what was needed to the people of the area!

  2. Carter was responsible for two of the four greatest boondoggles in government history. The departments of education and energy- both of which are giant wastes of money. (The FED and Obamacare being the other two boondoggles)

    Getting rid of the DOE would save us damn near a trillion every 10 years. Privately run schooling- competitively run- would eliminate those giant taxing districts that steal our local property taxes. Have a kid, it becomes your job to see that they are schooled and paid for. What a concept! The Department of Energy is worth another 25 billion lost every year.

    Good article. Gets right to the point. Thank you.

  3. Without a majority of parents who care, neither party’s ‘solutions’ will work. It’s clear that throwing more and more money isn’t helping; How does money help punks of either sex want to learn?
    I’m on the Advisory BOard of a nearby private Christian-run high school (Jews attend, too) and can’t believe the way those kids act; they’re polite, they’re fun, they’re mostly smart and eager to learn because the teachers have time to TEACH and encourage, not just discipline to no avail because the kids aren’t afraid of their folks; Our kids at the school care what their parents think and know their parents will be informed if they screw up and the kids actually care what their parents think! It’s the way they were raised. It’s the way WE were raised. What happened?

    Anyway, I’m here to tell you I’d lost a lot of hope in our kids in America (thinking, of course, that my nieces and nephews were decent and performing well but were total anomalies, who doesn’t think that about their own?!!) until I started substituting now and again at the school I mentioned and got to know some of the kids; now, I’m almost hopeful. But, we’ve got to stop thinking money’s the solution, no matter if it comes from national or state coffers. (our teachers don’t have to worry about bureaucrat gobbling…….and it shows)

  4. Education of our children is not in the purview of the federal Government. It is an issue for parents to deal with on a local or state level. If the parents on a local or state level want their government to provide public schools, then the parents and the local or state governments have to figure out what it is they want from the public schools and how they are going to pay for it.

  5. Some time ago I did a post about bureaucracy (I know I should look it up and give the link, but I’m being lazy on a Sunday morning… perhaps if I’d finished my coffee). I’d found an example of paperwork that the DOE required along with an estimate of hours it took to produce the report, and then, at the other end, to collect and input the reports. I don’t remember the exact figures, but I wrote the piece because I was astounded at the amount of time and money that was wasted. I did the math using minimum wage, being super conservative with my numbers even though I knew that on neither end was there a minimum wage worker dealing with this particular report. It came to millions of dollars, for just one report. And, I might add, one useless report.

    This is bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is the only product of government and it is pure waste. Government grows bureaucracy like the private sector grows wealth, except one is economically counterproductive and the other is purely positive. What is there for a bureaucrat to do but write rules, and enforce those rules, the incentive being the writing and enforcement with no incentive whatsoever to have those rules actually make a positive impact on their supposed area of interest. Of course there’s enormous waste of resources–in a bureaucracy the incentive is to waste resources. You don’t get more money unless you’ve spent all you got the previous year. You don’t grow your department unless there is a need to hire more people to write rules, enforce them, or process useless paperwork.

    Whatever the initial “good hearted” goal of a bureaucracy is, it will, in short order, begin to operate as “the blob”, doing whatever it can do to grow itself with little or no attention paid to its supposed mission.

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