Observation and common sense have told me for years that there is no relationship between the amount of money spent on education and student achievement. Now a new study to be released July 7 by the Cato Institute provides irrefutable facts that lead to the same conclusion.
Neal McCluskey, an education policy analyst for Cato, notes that while federal spending on education has ballooned from about $25 billion in 1965 (adjusted for inflation) to more than $108 billion in 2002, the promise of improved performance in the classroom and better grades remains flat. "Math and reading scores have stagnated," writes McCluskey, "graduation rates have flatlined, and researchers have shown several billion-dollar federal programs to be failures."
Will that awaken politicians to cut these failed programs and return education authority to the states? Not in an election year, it won't, because politicians believe education is an issue that gets them votes, even though, as the Cato study shows, they have failed miserably to improve it.
More than 36 federal departments and organizations run major education programs, according to the Department of Education Statistics. What are they doing with the money if so much of it fails to produce the promised results? Why is a school system that dates as far back as the Massachusetts Colony's 1647 Old Deluder Satan Act, which established the first compulsory and partially public education (and was intended to ensure that all members of the colony were sufficiently literate to read the Bible, enabling them to "fend off the inducements of Satan"), turning out so many functional illiterates who so willingly give in to all sorts of modern temptations?
Mostly, it is because state and local authority over education has been gradually usurped by the federal government, which has no constitutional authority to run or dictate to local schools. But as Washington has gradually claimed more power over education, the states have been able to exercise less and have been forced to succumb to increasing amounts of federal regulation in exchange for federal dollars taken from its citizens in the first place.
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