New Year's Resolution for Congress: Rein in Runway Education Spending

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New Year's Resolution for Congress: Rein in Runway Education Spending

January 12, 2005 2 min read

Authors: Rea Hederman and William Beach

New Year's Resolution for Congress: Rein in Runaway Education Spending

January 12, 2005

When Congress passed a pork-filled omnibus spending bill just before Thanksgiving, education programs got a heaping portion. Dubbed "the fattest legislative hog we have ever seen" by Taxpayers for Common Sense, the bill contained over 11,000 earmarks worth $15 billion. Among these, education earmarks numbered 1,200 and totaled $400 million, according to Erik W. Robelen writing in Education Week, including $450,000 for the Baseball Hall of Fame for "educational outreach using baseball to teach students through distance learning." The bill also included $25,000 for curriculum development for the study of mariachi music. Reluctant to leave any lobbyist behind, Congress also funded numerous special interest education programs, though funding for special education and Title I came in at lower levels than in the President's budget.

While the bill funds Title I at $600 million less than the President's request and special education at $500 million less than the President request, the "Whaling and Trading Partners" program received an increase. That $8.6 million could have helped additional poor or disabled children receive education services.

Kowtowing to still more special interests, Congress refused to de-fund the Women's Educational Equity Act even though girls equal or surpass boys on nearly every indicator of academic achievement. That's another $3 million.

Two weeks before Congress allocated funding for this outdated program, the U.S. Department of Education released yet another report showing girls' educational success. According to the report, girls equal or surpass boys in early education. In the K-12 years, they outperform boys in reading and writing and have essentially closed the gap in math and science. Girls are less likely to repeat grades or engage in risky behavior. More girls than boys enroll in undergraduate institutions, and girls are more likely to graduate with a degree. Girls are also more likely than boys to enroll in college immediately after high school.

Nevertheless, taxpayers will continue to fund the Women's Educational Equity Act, premised on the false idea that girls need federal assistance to keep pace academically.

These weren't the only low priority programs zeroed out in the President's budget and then amply funded by Congress in the spending omnibus. Millions of dollars that could have gone to high priority programs or to deficit reduction followed the same course, as illustrated in the chart below.

  President's Budget (in millions) Omnibus Bill (in millions)
Title I
Special education
Women's Educational Equity Act
Historic Whaling and Trading Partners
Even Start
Arts in Education
Community Technology Centers
Dropout Prevention
Elementary and Secondary School Counseling
National Writing Project
Javits Gifted and Talented Program
Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers
Foreign Language Assistance

Congress clearly has its priorities misplaced in its earmark-laden approach to education spending. For the sake of students-and taxpayers, too-Congress needs to get its fiscal house in order.


Rea Hederman

Former Director, Center for Data Analysis and Lazof Family Fellow

William Beach

Senior Associate Fellow