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.