The President embarked on a campaign to reduce waste in the federal government by eliminating duplication in federal agencies. Good news/bad news there. Less spending yes. Creation of a behemuth agency with no potential for redress also a possibility. We've already seen how that works out over at EPA.
Education was an area found with many opportunities for cutting waste. For instance, the GAO found:
- Thirteen agencies fund 209 different science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs - and 173 of those programs overlap with at least one other program.
- At least 15 major financial literacy programs - including three new ones established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
And while they are busy getting rid of these overlapping programs, Arne Duncan is over at the DOEd coming up with new ones. This week he and Kathleen Sebelius met with the Healthy Schools Campaign, a nonprofit group based in Chicago, and Trust for America’s Health to consider "a few small changes they believe could improve students’ academic and physical well-being and work to close achievement gaps." (Ed Week)
Among those changes are:
- The Education Department should expand the work of the office of safe and healthy students and appoint a deputy assistant secretary to the office so it is better equipped to handle emergency situations, such as an outbreak of the H1N1 flu, and provide guidance to states, school districts, and universities.
- The department should appoint a school nurse consultant who can share information with state school nurse consultants and promote school health services and school nursing.
Funding a consultant at the federal level to promote school nursing and school health services is an ironic twist since many schools are having to cut their nurses or share them because there isn't the funding available for them. How is it our federal government has money for stuff like this in education when our local schools do not?
Further down the list of recommendations is this beauty:
- The department should identify best practices for training teachers about standards related to health and separate standards for integrating health into data tracking and school accountability. Health and wellness also should become part of the criteria for competitive-grant programs for teacher and principal training, parent-engagement strategies, and state longitudinal data systems.
Additional recommendations include changing the rules to allow schools to receive Medicaid funding for all health services they provide (necessary for the expansion of the Community Schools Program). HHS has already written, but not implemented, that rule. Then there's the National Prevention Council, led by members of President Obama’s Cabinet, who want to explore the potential roles that schools can play in supporting children’s health and wellness. Keep in mind it's just a short skip and a hop from "supporting" to "overseeing" which would make parents and their pediatrician secondary players in children's health.
The financial watchdogs need to be on capitol hill asking the question "Doesn't DOEd need to follow the administration's mission to avoid duplication of federal programs? Where do they expect to get the money for these new positions and programs? How do they justify an expansion of their role beyond education like this?"
All these recommendations seem to fly directly in the face of Mr. Obama's mission to reduce government duplication of effort. Someone needs to show the administration they have a hole over at the DOEd that needs to be plugged. Perhaps Mr. Duncan and Ms. Sebelius didn't get the memo about not recreating existing programs. Or maybe they did get the memo, just a different one. Perhaps their memo said that they would be the foundation of the new behemuth agency for Human Development that will be responsible for all aspects of human growth, from birth to death. Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.