Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said recently, "Our K-12 agenda can be summed up in one word: reform."
If only it were true. But what Duncan calls reform is indeed putting lipstick on a pig. In this case, the pig is Washington's never changing formula for solving everything: spending ever-increasing sums of taxpayer's money.
"Reform" means generating new ideas about how to spend and coming up with clever new titles for programs.
So today it's called "Race to the Top." Duncan has been handed $4.35 billion, taken out of last year's $830 billion stimulus bill, and given personal discretion for dispensing it to states that propose education reform ideas that strike his fancy. It's the largest discretionary sum ever given to an education secretary.
This past week 40 states submitted proposals.
How do we know that Duncan can identify good ideas? We don't.
He says he likes charter schools and performance pay for teachers. He's open to new colors of lipstick that the pig has not sported before. But a pig is still a pig.
There appears to be not a shred of evidence that funneling more taxpayer dollars through Washington to states improves education. Data compiled by the conservative Heritage Foundation analysts shows that since 1970, federal spending per student, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled with no discernable change in test scores.
Now a new study released by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that the Head Start program -- the federal program started in 1965 aimed at getting low-income, preschool children prepared for school -- has no impact.
Some $166 billion of federal funds has been poured into Head Start. Yet this new study shows that first graders who have been through the program perform essentially the same as those who haven't.
In response to Texas Governor Rick Perry saying "no thanks" to new money with stipulations from Washington bureaucrats, Duncan said, "If states are half-hearted that's probably not a place where we'll invest."
It says it all that Duncan calls a long and unblemished history of shoveling taxpayer funds into a black hole "investing." Can you imagine any investment banker or venture capitalist "investing" in anything with this kind of track record? Chances are zero.
So why must we tolerate it?