March 16, 2005
By Krista Kafer and Jonathan Butcher
Just as the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to make
"adequate yearly progress" toward state education goals, now it's
time for Congress to show it can make real progress toward sound
fiscal policy on education. President Bush's 2006 education budget
has set a standard of budgetary restraint. Faced with a projected
$427 billion deficit, President Bush has pledged to cut the deficit
in half by 2009. Toward that end, his proposed budget calls for
eliminating 150 redundant or ineffective programs this year,
including 48 education programs.
This year, if President Bush has his way, the ax will fall heavily
on aging education initiatives such as TRIO, a series of support
programs for disadvantaged high school students.
It's not that the president has something against poor kids. It's
that these programs don't work. Some may survive in modified and
scaled-down form as part of the president's new initiative to
improve the nation's high schools. But he has served notice that,
from now on, all federal education programs will have to
demonstrate their worth constantly or face elimination.
Overall federal education spending has grown by a third since
President Bush took office. If the president's budget request is
approved, funding for programs designed to end the achievement gap
between white and minority students -- the focus of Title I of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1968 -- will have grown
by 52 percent since he took office in 2000.
But even significant increases in spending on Title I programs
doesn't make them any more effective. In fact, despite hundreds of
billions of dollars in federal spending over the last 37 years,
we've yet to make much of a dent in the achievement gap.
The difference is that President Bush, the first chief executive to
hold an MBA, believes we can't manage what we don't measure. As
such, he has ordered rigorous review of much of what the federal
government does through the Office of Management and Budget's
Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). He wants the programs that
PART has identified as not producing the desired results rolled
into his new high school initiative or dropped. And he wants the
programs that did measure up this year to have to continue to prove
In other words, the president has done the hard work. He's stuck
out his neck and identified, by name, the programs that ought to be
cut. Congress now should do its part and start eliminating these.
In fact, it should go further and slash some other examples of
education waste, such as the Women's Educational Equity Act.
Last year, Congress funded WEEA, which repeatedly has been marked
for elimination, to the tune of $3 million. The problem is that
girls don't need the help. They already equal or surpass boys in
nearly every indicator of academic achievement.
Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education released yet another
report demonstrating girls' educational dominance. In the K-12
years, girls outperform boys in reading and writing and essentially
have 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.
This is not about choking public schools of needed resources or
leaving the underprivileged to fend for themselves. It's about
fiscal responsibility. It's about eliminating programs whose main
argument for survival is that they have a well-placed supporter in
Congress. It's about eliminating small, special-interest programs
with limited impact, such as the Exchanges with Historic Whaling
and Trading Partners Program, and slashing other ineffective
Admittedly, Congress loves to feed the special interests. Last
year, it passed a huge education appropriations bill with more than
1,200 pork provisions, including $450,000 for a distance-learning
project from the Baseball Hall of Fame and $25,000 to develop
curriculum to study mariachi music.
At the same time, inexplicably, Congress cut $600 million from
President Bush's proposed spending on Title I programs and $500
million for special education programs.
Members can make their own "adequate yearly progress" toward
responsible spending this year by following the president's lead
and trimming unnecessary pork. To avoid this responsibility is to
shortchange our children's future.
Krista Kafer is an education analyst and Jonathan Butcher is a
researcher at The Heritage Foundation.
First Appeared on FoxNews.com
Just as the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to make"adequate yearly progress" toward state education goals, now it's time for Congress to show it can make real progress toward sound fiscal policy on education.
Senior Education Policy Analyst
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