Andrew Clark: Way past last call

The farce that is President Obama’s wasteful economic stimulus bill still (even after the compromise) has dozens of provisions that need to be seriously reconsidered. However, cutting out much of the billions of dollars in new education funding from the bill was a good place to start and I say we should cut out even more.

I know the liberal elements in Washington like to operate under the myth that all their government programs would work if only they had more funding, but let’s be clear about something: More money for public education will not improve public education. Period.

It’s no secret that public education in the United States is troubling at best, for a variety of reasons, both cultural and institutional. Parents that don’t put enough importance on education contribute to low grades and high dropout rates. Unchallenging curricula and ineffective testing allow students to glide from grade to grade regardless of whether they are actually ready. A lack of school choice stalls competition and stagnates education quality. Teachers’ unions are too powerful and prevent any meaningful reform. Regardless of which argument you believe, everyone can agree that public education in America, to phrase it in an uneducated way, sucks.

So our answer was to double the size of the education budget by throwing another $150 billion at a system that we know doesn’t work?

To put this in a metaphor we college students may understand, imagine there’s an alcoholic at the bar at closing time and the solution to get rid of him is to keep the bar open for another hour. This closely resembles our current education policy.

For the past 20 years, except for No Child Left Behind, mainly all we have done in the name of fixing education is pump more money into it. Fact: The United States spends a higher percentage of GDP, around 6 percent, on education than almost all other industrialized countries. Yet we consistently fall behind those same countries in achievement. According to UNICEF, only 1 percent of South Korean students fall below international education standards, while 16 percent of American students do the same. More funding alone clearly does not and will not guarantee success.

The Bush administration increased the education budget by 167 percent over two terms, and we’re still in an education crisis. It’s not just primary and secondary education that fall into this illusion that more money automatically means better results. College students, too, have become victims.

During the Bush years, funding for student loans increased nearly 400 percent to $50 billion. Yet college prices still rise and just as many families are having problems paying for college. When colleges realize struggling families will have more loan money to pay for tuition, they react by raising their tuition even higher. Hundreds of economists have realized and documented this phenomenon, but Washington ignores it under the shield of “how can you oppose more money for education? You monster!”

Well, I oppose more money for education – at least until we fix the fundamental problems with the system.

If you ask me, the teachers’ unions, in the interest of higher pay, have focused so hard on maintaining the status quo and raising teachers’ salaries that any meaningful reform has become impossible. That’s open for debate, of course, but nevertheless it’s a debate we need to have before we start allocating $150 billion in taxpayer money to causes we know don’t and won’t work.

Let’s be smart about this one, guys, and not let our schools turn into that drunk guy at the bar.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist and a member of the College Republicans executive board.

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