Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama's $4 billion 'school reform' agenda

Everyone remembers Obama's plan for education reform, right? Uh, actually, no. Never mind that. Does anyone remember when $4 billion was a lot of money?
The rush is on for $4.35 billion in “Race to the Top” grants, targeted to leverage historic reforms in US public schools.
"This is one of the largest investments in education reform in American history," said President Obama at the US Department of Education on Friday. "And rather than divvying it up and handing it out, we are letting states and school districts compete for it."
The high-stakes grants are targeted to reward states and school districts that are "ready to do things that work," the president said. "That's how we can incentivize excellence and spur reform and launch a race to the top in America's public schools." . . .
(Note strategic deployment of the magic words: "incentivize," "excellence" and "reform.")
For the past two months, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been telling education groups that if they want to have an edge going into the competition for these grants, they must demonstrate four key reforms. These include:
• Reversing a pervasive dumbing down of academic standards and testing.
• Establishing better data on student achievement, including linking teacher evaluations and pay to student outcomes.
• Improving or replacing teachers who aren't up to the job, especially in high-poverty schools and hard-to-staff subjects.
• Turning around failing schools, including replacing school staff and changing school culture.
"For the first time in history, we have the resources at the federal level to drive reform," Secretary Duncan said as he released draft guidelines for the competition on Friday.
"We cannot continue to tinker in terrible schools where students fall further and further behind, year after year," he added. . . .
To summarize in three words: Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.

Another throw-money-at-it giveaway to the teachers' unions, with "goals" and "standards" that are vague and arbitrary, the primary purpose being to give the president sufficent rhetorical coverage for that (mandatory) paragraph about "education reform" in his next State Of The Union speech.

In other words, it's No Child Left Behind, Part Deux.

The problem with the public education system is the system itself. Parents who send their kids to public schools are constituents of the world's largest welfare program. Whatever the total federal expenditure is on K-12 education, every dime of it is "waste, fraud, and abuse," a stupid idea with stupid consequences.

You cannot defend public education and call yourself a conservative. The entire history of public education shows that it has been, from Day One, a liberal project aimed at achieving liberal policy objectives that have nothing to do with actual education.

More than anything else, public education is a propaganda vehicle for teaching American children falsehoods, including the belief that government can give you stuff for "free." Let the government give people something for "free," and you automatically guarantee two things:
  • It will be ridiculously expensive.
  • Whatever it is, will suck.
As Newt Gingrich once famously observed, high school nowadays is nothing but "subsidized dating." It's a colossal waste of time and money. Kids learn more playing hooky than they do when they go to class. "Public school reform" ought to be done the same as "public housing reform":


  1. "Another throw-money-at-it giveaway to the teachers' unions"

    Don't forget Obama's best-buddy and mentor Bill Ayers, who under the guise of "school reform" used tax money to fund left-wing indoctrination in Chicago public schools.

  2. When is the average American going to realize that Obama speaks 'conservative, yet he is a bloody Communist! I'm not much of a religious person, more like a 'fox hole' Christian, but I'm praying everyday that we are delivered from this EVIL POS!!!

  3. You cannot call yourself a libertarian and defend the current version of public education.

    Fixed, and true that.

  4. "To summarize in three words: Yadda. Yadda. Yadda."

    That's really facile and below what I've seen of you so far.

    The goals are admirable, from a conservative perspective, given where we are. Perhaps in execution they are just rhetorical cover, but you are not showing that. "Yada, yada, yada" is a pretty puerile rejoinder.

  5. You do know this money was part of the $787 Billion package. No wonder the stimulus has had no effect.

    When will this money get spnt?

  6. "That's really facile and below what I've seen of you so far."

    Dude, I'm 49 years old. They've been "reforming" education since I was in kindergarten. The federal Department of Education was created three weeks after my 20th birthday. "A Nation at Risk" was published the year I graduated college. Bush 41 campaigned on a promise to be "the education president" in 1988, and every subsequent president has followed suit.

    For all this rhetoric about "reform," for all the massive outlays of taxpayer money, are schools today any better in any measurable way? Of course not.

    "The goals are admirable" = the good intentions with which they'll pave a certain thoroughfare to a notorious destination.

    So, I repeat: Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  7. So how can homeschoolers get some of that reform money? We're the only people I know who are actually reforming education, and we pay for every bit of it ourselves. We buy our own books, develop or purchase our own curricula, and use space on property that we own or rent - all while paying the property taxes that fund the public schools we don't use.

    Don't bother to answer. We'd rather do without gov't money than have to accept the gov't control that comes with it.

  8. I realize that the education system has been a sinkhole. The conservative solutions, as far as I can tell, are that we need vouchers and firing/rewarding teachers on performance.

    Large-scale vouchers don't have the public support. What's so bad about a Democratic president doing a Nixon-in-China pushing the performance solution?

    Next thing, the Right will be criticizing Obama for trying to limit malpractice suits. Lets see, how about this: big government is interfering with the local jury system!

  9. Nixon-in-China???

    That makes no sense: Obama is just throwing money at a problem that cannot be solved with money: The needed solutions are cultural (parents and kids valuing education) and institutional (breaking the teachers unions stranglehold which prevents tying pay to performance) and ideological (schools wasting vast amounts of time on PC B.S.)

    If we just throw money while admitting that mere money won't help, then we're as arrogant and foolish as Bono. If we don't admit it won't help then we're merely fools. If we do it because our priorities are not education but indoctrination of children and a gravy-train for unions, then we are not fools but scoundrels. Guess which I think Obama and the Dems are.

  10. pst314 -- I agree with you 100 percent.

    Obama appears to be trying to tie pay to performance. Assuming for a moment that this is sincere, it is analogous to the Nixon going to China in the sense that:

    a.) he would be as President breaking the orthodoxy of his own party

    b.) he's isolating the hardliners