But why not? If we are going to cut programs that are proven to have failed to achieve their goals, federal spending on education should be at the top of the list.
Federal spending on public schools (which is only a small percentage of their school budgets) was given specific goals in the 2002 law called "No Child Left Behind," the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It required states to set targets to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, to meet an annual benchmark of progress toward this goal and in particular to demonstrate a closing or narrowing of the gap between higher-income and minority students.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw a cannonball into the education debate this month by admitting that 82 percent of public schools could be labeled "failing" under No Child Left Behind specifications. His solution is to stop calling them "failing," extend the target date for student proficiency to 2020 and, of course, to appropriate more money to failed programs.
For years, education spokesmen have opined that kids should be able to read by the fourth grade. Good for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is now calling for the reading goal to be third grade -- and this goal is also being advocated by the Indiana and New Mexico governors.
Obama wants to put more money into the notoriously useless program called Head Start, and he increased its annual funding in 2009 by nearly $3 billion. U.S. taxpayers have given Head Start $166 billion of taxpayers' money since 1965 despite many studies proving that it was mostly wasted, did not give poor kids a head start and any gains made while kids were in Head Start disappeared within a couple of years.
Since conservatives famously lost the battle to prevent federal spending on local public schools (which they view as unconstitutional) a half century ago, Congress has year after year increased appropriations. In recent years, Congress identified two primary purposes: to raise student achievement and to narrow the gap between high- and low-income students and between minority and white students.
We the federal taxpayers have spent roughly $2 trillion on these efforts since 1965. It's reasonable to ask, did we get our money's worth?
If we look at the class that graduated from the public schools in 2009, we find that we spent over $151,000 per student to bring him from the first to the 12th grade. That's nearly three times as much as we spent on the graduating class of 1970.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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