Federal Spending on Education to Double, and Do Little Good

Part of the “stimulus” (read: earmark-ridden, pork-barrel) package making its way through Washington D.C. these days involves federal aid to education. Lisa Snell, of the Reason Foundation, takes a look at the money and finds little good.

  • The stimulus package will spend more than double the current total federal education budget, bringing federal funding of education to well over $200 billion.
  • According to the OECD’s 2008 Education at a Glance, the United States [already] ranks number one in all education spending and well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for K-12 education. Yet, outcomes for students at the end of their public education career have not kept pace with these large-scale investments.
  • School districts have also continued to hire more teachers as enrollments have declined. The National Center for Education Statistics puts the current average teacher-student ratio at 1 to 15. There is little evidence that class-size is correlated with student outcomes, yet districts continue to favor small class size as school reform. This stimulus plan would also prolong the practice of generous defined-benefit retirement plans, which guarantee teachers specific retirement payments despite school districts ever-increasing unfunded pension liabilities.
  • These stimulus plans contain no incentives for schools to cut costs or reform the school construction bureaucracy by using innovative practices such as public-private partnerships to more efficiently build new schools.
  • The House stimulus package contains $1 billion for technology programs and $6 billion to bring broadband access to underserved communities that may include schools. …. [But] [t]he 2007 report “Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2005” that in the fall of 2005 nearly 100 percent of public schools in the United States had access to the Internet.
  • It’s also important to note that 70 percent of 4-year-olds are already enrolled in preschool. States with government-run universal preschool programs also enroll about 70 percent of students, so it is not clear how many more kids the stimulus will result in enrolling.
  • It’s also important to note that 70 percent of 4-year-olds are already enrolled in preschool. States with government-run universal preschool programs also enroll about 70 percent of students, so it is not clear how many more kids the stimulus will result in enrolling.
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