The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #351 on Education

May 11, 1984

May 11, 1984 | Backgrounder on Education

The Education Crisis: Washington Shares the Blame

(Archived document, may contain errors)

351 May 11, 1984 THE EDUCATION CRISIS WASHINGTON SHARES THE BLAME INTRODUCTION That there is a crisis in American education is by now widely acknowledged. Exactly how the crisis is to be resolved however is in dispute. Many within the education establishment feel the nation's schools can be i mproved only with increased federal spending. The evidence, however, argues otherwise. Data from the past three decades demonstrate that, as federal involvement in education has increased, educational quality has plummeted.

Between 1950 and 1980, for insta nce, the federal share of educa tion financing soared threefold. Yet during this same period Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores fell from their 1963 peak by 36 points in mathematics and 54 points in verbal skills A major reason for this plunge has been the centralization of education policy making in Washington, D.C. From this power base, special interest groups have maneuvered Congress into creat ing programs that serve their own narrow ends rather than educa tion's broad mission and are,based on a set of unrealistic philo sophical assumptions.

The civil rights movement, which sought to provide poor minor ities with equality of educational opportunity through such federal programs as Title I, somehow bought the erroneous notion that equality of opportunity is synonymous with equality of outcome.

Advocates for the handicapped used the civil rights approach to press Congress to pass The Education for All Handicapped Children Act; it rests on the questionable assumption that the responsi bility for disable d individuals is primarily society's--as a civil right--rather than the family's with the help of society.

Such legislation, although enacted by well meaning politi cians, has directed funding, attention, and policy to the "special student. The evidence s hows, 'regrettably, that such pr'ograms L 2 yield minimal positive results for that student and generally damaging results for the normal child. To this, advocates for the special programs turn their backs, denounce the data, and then demand even greater o utlays-for programs that fail to achieve their goals must be the dismantling of the power base of the lobbyists--the Department of Education. In addition, special schools should be established to meet the special needs of students (such as the mentally re t arded and physically handicapped who cannot easily be incorporated into a normal school program. These schools can be assisted through vouchers and tuition tax credits. Finally Title I of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act should be abolished , and the responsibility for educating academically slow students returned to the regular classroom teacher A first step in restoring the nation's educational health Before these reforms can be instituted, the political hammer- Criti- lock-by supporters of ineffective programs must be broken cal to this is placing the documented results of these programs before the public and generating a national debate on the merits of centralized versus decentralized educational initiatives. To accomplish this, the Presi d ent should appoint a national. commis sion, drawn from parents and educators, to hold hearings, review the evidence, and publish a report. Unless the debate is con ducted in this way--outside the narrow confines of Congress where organized interest groups dominate the proceedings--the U.S will never be able to deal with the needs of handicapped children or slow learners.

THE GROWTH OF THE FEDERAL PRESENCE Fundinq Total spending on public elementary and secondary education for EY 1984 is an estimated $125 bi1lion.l This represents nearly 4 percent of the Gross National Product (GNP)--much higher than in most other industri a lized nations.* Expenditures per pupil have risen dramatically in real terms'(adjusted to discount infla tion), from an average of $848 in 1950 to $2,228 in 1980 (measured in 1980 dollars).3 But this has not prompted a rise in standards U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.

When compared to the percentage of the GNP spent on education by other advanced industrial nations, the U.S. leads. The percentage of the GNP spent on K-12 education in Japan is 2.9 percent, in West Ger many, 2.8 percent, and in England and France, 2.3 percent Calculated from data reported in the UNESCO, Statistical Yearbook, 1982, and personal conanuni cation with UNESCO, Bureau of Educational Statistics, Paris Warren Brookes The NEA Versus Accountabili ty in Public Education,"

Heritage Features Syndicate (Washington, D.C The Heritage Foundation July 31, 1983 U.S. Department of Education: National Center for Education Statistics.c 3 Indeed, between 1963, when average SAT scores were at their zenith math, 502; verbal, 478), and 1983, when they were near their nadir math, 468; verbal, 425),4 real dollars spent per student rose by 70 percent.5 Moreover, a simple regression analysis, performed by the office of Senator John East (R-NC), reveals a significant n e gative relation betwen federal funding of the schools and perfor mance outcomes. (Chart 1 illustrates this point Centralization The decline in academic standards also has coincided with greater centralization of funding. In 1950, 57 percent of educa tion f unding was provided locally; states contributed 40 percent the federal government, 3 percent. By 1980-1981, however, the local share had decreased to 43 percent, while the states' share had jumped to 47 percent, and the federal proportion had tripled to 9 percent.6 local educational needs. State bureaucracies, meanwhile, invari ably mimic the flawed programs and regulations that emanate from Washington. The result has been a general disempowerment of parents, school boards, and other local education agenci e s--who traditionally have fought to maintain high educational standards Centralization has meant federal regulations ill-suited to Questionable Philosophy Advocates of centralized education policies often argue from three false assumptions 1) That man's p u rpose and end are defined by man.himself. If man determines his own end, they reason, then equality of result should be attainable by the right legislation. Any failure to attain equal result must therefore,be the product of discrimina tion. Hence they tu r n to social legislation and court action to force equality of result rather than equality of opportunity 2) That consensus determines what is right and good, rather than objective standards that have stood the test of time. This The decline in test scores is probably more dramatic than the data indi cate. In 1963 the math and verbal SATs represented the average scores of all students taking these tests. Since 1967 the College Board has reported only the scores of college-bound seniors (Education Times, Sep t ember 16 1983)--the individuals presumably more academically capable than those who do not attend college. A truer comparison, then, would be between the college-bound seniors of 1963 and the college-bound seniors of 1983 Education in America l In A Serie s : Will More Dollars Buy a Better Education Asheboro, North Carolina: Stedman Corporation, 1983 U.S. Department of Education: National Center for Education Statistics 5 4 0 0 0 I I I 0 OO 0 O(0 r z UJ a 00 Q I Y OO ON 0 0 0 0 0 tn w. 0 0 0 No 0 7 I 3 I I I 5 view ultimately repudiates the values and standards upon which a successful education system depends 3) That the primary responsibility for dealing with an individ ual's disability lies with the larger political unit, rather than with the family and imm ediate community. Proponents of this view demand ever larger government programs and denounce their critics as having a wrong attitude toward disability.

Although several federal education programs embody these false assumptions and the steady growth of th e federal presence the two that are most heavily funded and generate the greatest policy debates are Compensatory Education and The Education of the Handicapped. Neither of these programs has achieved its goals yet the educational establishment has manage d to discredit any indication of this failure. They epitomize the triumph of poli tics over purposeful help to the needy.

CASE EXAMPLE--TITLE I/CHAPTER I The Rationale During the 1950s and 1960s, a plethora of studies sought to explain the dramatically inf erior academic performance of black children in predominantly black schools possible explanations, social science researchers looked at en vironmental factors. They concluded that blacks were Ilculturally deprived due to poverty and racial prejudice.7 To r emedy this they argued, schools should be transformed into institutions that would achieve equality of result. This, in large part, was the aim of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA Title I (now Chapter I)8 of the Act provides aid to st a tes and school districts for compensatory education for educationally disadvantaged children from low-income families. By 1983, Chap ter I programs were receiving $3.2 billion. Cumulative federal spending for compensatory education exceeds over $38 billio n .9 In the FY 1984 budget, $3.5 billion was appropriated. These funds will reach an estimated 90 percent of the school districts in America to serve between 4.5 and 5.5 million children.l Rejecting all other Diane Ravitch, The Troubled Crusade: American Ed ucation 1945-1980 [New York Basic Books, Inc 1983 p. 150.

Title I was changed to Chapter I in the 1981 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The change constituted in large part a reduction of federal regula tion requirements for local school districts For ex ample, local school districts are no longer required to have parent advisory councils White House Report Cost Effectiveness of Compensatory Education Pro grams 1983 lo Fairness 11: An Executive Briefing Book (White House Office of Policy Information, May 1 , 1983 pp. 65-66 6 The Results In the first seven years of Title I, $50 million was spent on evaluating the program.ll Most of these evaluations were dis couraging. The Westinghouse assessment of Head Start in 1969 for example, reported that initial gains made by disadvantaged children in preschool compensatory education programs disappeared in later years.12 Recently, Stephen P. Mullen of the University of Pennsylvania and Anita A. Summers of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business surveyed the findings of 47 studies on the effectiveness of compensatory education. Their findings reinforce earlier studies. They conclude The results of most studies are overstated because of the upward biases inherent in several standard statis tical procedures.

The gains a ppear to be greater in the earlier years and the evidence is fairly strong that early gains are not sustained No significant association exists between dollars spent and achievement gains No approach or program characteristic was consistently found to be e ffective.13 The gains of the remediated educationally slower students thus have been modest at best and may well have been purchased at the expense of academically talented students--that pool of talent from which the nation traditionally has drawn its le adership.

Between 1967 and 1975, the number of students scoring above 700 of a possible 800) on the mathematics section of the Scholastic Aptitude Test declined by 15 percent.I4 From 1979 to 1980 alone the number of students scoring over 750 fell from 2,65 0 to 1,892 verbal) and from 9,059 to 7,675 (mathematics).15 11 12 13 14 15 Carl F. Kaestle and Marshall S. Smith The Federal Role in Elementary and Secondary Education, 1940-1980 Harvard Educational Review, November 1982.

Westinghouse Learning Corporation, The Impact of Head Start: An Evalua tion of the Effects of Head Start on Children's Cognitive and Affective Development (Washington, D.C Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, June 1969).

Stephen P. Mullen and Anita A. Summers, "Is More Better? The Effectiveness of Spending on Compensatory Education Phi Delta Kappa, January 1983 Fact Sheet from the National Convention in Precollege Education in Mathe matics and Science, May 12-13, 1982 (Washington, D.C National Science Foundatio n).

Solveig Eggerz, Why Our Public Schools are Failing and What We Must DO About It (New Rochelle, New York: America's Future, 1982 p. 339. 7 I Critics of Chapter I argue that these disappointing results are the inevitable result of a faulty system. They n ote that most components of the Chapter I program are separated from the regular education program; it has a separate administrative struc ture and separate teaching personnel; approximately 50 percent of these Chapter 1. personnel are paraprofessionals w h o, on the whole are not as skilled or as knowledgeable as regular school teachers By far the strongest criticism leveled against Chapter I is that, in practice, it separates the slow student from the regular classroom. This has labeled the targeted studen t , and it has weakened the regular teacher's commitment to working with students who require any extra effort. It has muddled the education cur riculum,17 and produced a cadre of special needs personnel whose financial and professional interests lie in mai ntaining enrollments.

These disturbing results should have led policy makers to examine the assumptions upon which compensatory education was based. Yet during the 1970s they merely shifted their focus from assessing effectiveness to ensuring the money rea ched the targeted p'opulation and that the program was properly implemented.l8 Cur rently, according to Carl Bereiter of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, the "two lines of retreat" from the disap pointing study results have been to diagnose *individual education problems and to pull all students possible into the compensatory education rubric.lg In the early 1970s, the educational establishment reacted by discrediting the standards measuring the program's failure We will need to recognize th a t the so-called 'basic skills which currently represent nearly the total effort in elementary schools will be taught in one quarter of the school day. The remaining time will be devoted to what is truly fundamental and basic stated Catherine Barrett in 19 7 2 as President of NEA.20 What was truly fundamental and basic?" Said the NEA, IISchools [are to become] 'clinics' whose purpose is to provide individualized psychosocial 'treatment' for the student, thus increasing his value both to himself and to society . 1121 Academic standards throughout education were lowered or eliminated; substantive academic cdurses were replaced by courses of highly questionable merit (including interpersonal skills and bachelor living stu dents were required to know less and less l 6 Solveig Eggerz, Federal Aid for Social Engineering in the Public Schools Washington, D.C ACU Education and Research Institute, 1976 Personal communication with an official in the Department of Education. l7 Kaestle and Smith, op. cit l8 Kaestle and Smith , op. cit.

Education Daily, May 2, 1984 Eggerz, Federal Aid, op. cit 21 Forecast for the O'S Today's Education, NEA Journal (Washington D.C National Education Association, January 1969). 8 Despite the disappointing study results, the obvious diffi culties in implementation, and the negative impact on high achievers, Congress appropriated another $3.48 billion for Chap ter I in FY 1984 The comparatively minor, short-term improvementz2 in the scores of the Title I students has been lauded as extraordinary an d cited as ample justification for continuing to pour dispro portionately high amounts of federal dollars into compensatory education programs. Studies that question the programs are dis missed or used as arguments for the programs' extension; critics are d enounced as being insensitive to the needs of the disadvan taged; and localities opting not to use federal funds for compen satory education are attacked as irresponsible. Indeed, the assumption that the federal government and its partners--the special in t erest lobbyists--know what is best for American educa tion has even prompted a move, championed by Secretary of Educa tion Terrel Bell, to earmark block grant funds specifically for compensatory education programs. Thus, the centralized education structur e provides a continuing power base for those wishing to extend programs that have yielded costly but disappointing results.

CASE EXAMPLE--EDUCATION OF THE HANDICAPPED The Rationale Education of the handicapped programs are also examples of how facts and results are dismissed when a powerful. lobby group dominates a centralized system of education. The 1954 Supreme Court decisi o n in Brown v. Board of Education had a profound im pact on subsequent legislation and court decisions regarding the handicapped. Brown established the civil right of every school aged child to a llqualityll education and the principle that de jure segrega tion of any kind works against this goal.

During the early 1960s, the parents of handicapped children were concentrating their efforts at the state and local levels.

Their goal was to use civil rights arguments to place all handi capped children in public ly supported education programs and to train special teachers to staff these programs.23 1960s, Washington became the focus of these efforts. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act empowers federal officials to withdraw federal funds from any program that v iolates antidiscrimination laws and regulations In the late The Campaign I The campaign was impressive. It had money and public sym pathy, and it claimed the moral high ground.24 Skillful lobbying I 22 It would take a very large gain at the low end to off s et a small loss at the upper 23 Ravitch, op. cit p. 306 24 Ibid p. 307. 9 led to the establishment of the Bureau of Education for the Handi capped (BEH) as the primary agency for administering and carrying out the education and training programs for the h a ndi~apped Congress also created the National Advisory Committee on Educa tion and Training of the Handicapped. As intended, both became Iladvocacy agencies for the handicapped within the federal govern ment..1126 From this base, the lobby succeeded in 197 0 in increas ing federal aid for education of the handicapped to'include learning disabilities--thereby further strengthening the constitu ency.

Emboldened by their success with Congress, the handicapped constituency next turned to the courts. Pennsylvania was sued.

In a landmark decision by a federal court in 1971 (PARC v. Common wealth of Pennsylvania the state was ordered to provide a free public education for all retarded children in the state.27 A second, broader federal court decision in the District of Columbia the following year triggered similar decisions elsewhere. At least two recent state court rulings have mandated year-round schooling for handicapped children to be paid for by the school districts.

The campaign took another.significant step f orward in 1973 when Congress passed the Rehabilitation Act. Section 504, echoing the Civil Rights Act, Inprohibits any program or activity receiving Federal assistance from discriminating against any persons because of a handicapping condition.'f28 It req u ires public schools to teach handicapped children alongside their regular school peers if possible. Schools must also make available to handicapped children all extracurricular activities available to the non handicapped; pay for all nonmedical expenses i f the district places a handicapped child in a residential school and make Ilreasonable accommodationll to employ handicapped teachers.29 There was considerable opposition to these costly regulations.

President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill, but Congress o verrode the veto, thanks to the "iron triangle" formed between the handi capped constituency, the staff and members of congressional educa tion committees, and the federal agency staff administering programs for the handicapped.

The power of the triangle was further demonstrated in 1975 by passage of Public Law 94-142, the IIEducation for All Handi capped Children Act This requires states and local districts 25 Report of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, op. cit p. 44 Ravitch, op. cit p. 307 27 John P ittenger and Peter Kuriloff, "Educating the Handicapped: Reforming 28 Angela Evans Education of the Handicapped," Issue .Brief #lB78040, Con 29 Education Daily, August 30, 1972, p. 5 30 Ravitch, op. cit p. 308 a Radical Law Public Interest, vol. 65-66, 19 8 1-82, pp. 76-78 gressional Research Service, December 7, 1982. 10 to afford every handicapped child within their jurisdictions (be- tween the ages of 3 and 21) a "free and appropriate public educa- tionll in the "least restrictive environmentIr (meaning w h erever possible placing handicapped children in the same classroom with nonhandicapped--mainstreaming--with pull-out supplemental in struction for the handicapped students). In what a prominent educator has called !lone of the sharpest intrusions of the f e deral government into the details of the teaching practice,1131 every teacher of a handicapped child is required to write an Individu alized Education Program for that child. P.L. 94-142 also sets up elaborate due process procedures, which encourage paren ts to initiate litigation whenever they are dissatisfied with a teacher's or school's handling of their child.

The Results However noble the motivation behind these requirements may have been, they actually have reduced the effectiveness of the education t hat many handicapped children once received.32 needs students, accustomed to individualized programs, are placed in regular classrooms. These special students, predictably, are often tormented and teased, because of their emotional problems mental retarda t ion, or physical disabilities.33 Valuable' teacher time is spent on the highly questionable activity of filling out IEPs. Furthermore, opening pupil records and encouraging parents to challenge record content has led to the removal of much of the informat i on the teacher needs to give the child an effective edu- cation Special P.L. 94-142 requires school districts to pay for "related services1' without considering the income of the parents of the handicapped child architectural barriers (installing elevator s in some cases hiring specially trained personnel (for example, psychologists physical therapists, therapeutic recreation specialists, diag nostic personnel, and supervisors the payment of private school tuition for those children who'cannot be taught in public school indeed, whatever a court decides.34 These services include the elimination of 31 32 33 34 Statement of Myron Atkin, Dean of Education, Stanford University, in Ravitch, p. 317.

The author has six years experience teaching handicapped children.

Advocates for the handicapped have said that these "initial" adjustment problems in the main have been solved. Whether this is so, however, is debatable the mainstreaming effort as "problematic" and "disastrous .tt the normal school population may have b een quelled by an unprecedented move to draw this population into the ranks of the handicapped through a learning disabilities" label normal children are being labeled handicapped and pulled out of their regular classrooms for "remediation."

Subpart B (St ate Annual Program Plans and Local Applications P.L 94-142, Education for All Handicapped Children Act Individual regular and resource room teachers still describe Protests f roin Evidence seems to indicate that many 11 A 1981 report by Education Turnkey S ystems, Inc. (a Virginia based firm that conducts research and evaluations for' federal state, and local agencies) described the expenditures of states and localities on special services to handicapped children as lfuncontrollable.lf Evidence indicates th a t 25 percent of one state's local school transportation budget is spent on handi capped children who make up only 3 percent of the total school population.1f35 To meet the towering and disproportionate costs of complying with handicapped regulations, many states and local school districts have reduced services to normal school children.

There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of children labeled Learning Disabled (LD) since P.L. 94-142 was enacted--the figure jumped 119 percent, for instance, between 1977 and 1983.36 There are four possible explanations for this 1) Mentally retarded (MR) children are re-labeled LD to avoid the MF! label. The increase in LD students has indeed coincided with a decrease in the number of children served as menta l ly retarded 2) Normal children are labeled LD so that school districts can receive more state and federal money. Says Harold Voth, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kansas and a member of the faculty at the Menninger Foundation School of Psychi a try It seems very strange to me that in a few short years since this program was established, our schools sudden ly have 'found' a shocking one million additional children with learning deficits. But then when we consider that those one million children a c count for about 60 percent of the $930 million federal tax dol lars sent to local school'districts last year for special education the reason for that growth becomes clear 3) Some teachers refer for LD placement students who require anything more than min i mal teaching effort, to avoid their teaching responsibilities. Observes Dr. Joseph M. Scandura, Professor of Education and Director of Instructional Systems at the University of Pennsylvania Teachers who have grown up in an atmosphere of unionism are much more concerned with how many minutes they have to stick around after the bell rings than they are with really helping children learn. Instead, children are 35 Evans, op. cit p. 11 36 Education Times, February 13, 1984, p. 6. 37 "Disparities Still Exist in Who Gets Special Education CAO Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee on Select Education, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, September 30, 1981. 12 frequently labeled 'learning disabled lazy,' or whatever, and walked away from. It' s easier that way takes less of the teacher's time 4) LD class enrollments are kept high to guarantee the jobs of LD teachers. In many schools, the number of special needs per sonnel is rivaling--even outstripping--the number of regular school teach ers.

The definition of learning disabilities is notoriously un clear, and there is a tendency to overuse it. According to Dr. Ralph Scott, Director of the Educational Clinic and Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa Most school psychologists and special education personnel don't know what they're talking about when they talk about learning disabled children This leads to many mislabeled, misdiagnosed children--and to their permanent emotional damage.

Laws for the education of th e handicapped have drained re sources from the normal school population, probably weakened the quality of teaching, and falsely labeled normal children. In a misguided effort to help a few, the many have been injured. Yet the handicapped constituency disp lays a strange lack of concern for the effect of their regulations upon the welfare of the general population--the very population upon whom the well-being of these children ultimately depends.

The constituency justifies these expensive regulations and the ir impact on education as necessary to ensure the inclusion of handicapped children in the social mainstream. It appears that no effort has been made to assess the effects of mainstreaming on regular students, although advocates for the handicapped do exp ress concern" over the alarming rise in the number of children being labeled LD. There has been no effort, however, by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to redefine the LD category or to drop it from the funding formula.

RECOMMEND ATIONS The essence of public education is the transmission of knowl edge. Subsidiary goals--no matter how noble the aim--must not be allowed to undermine this primary function. For two decades, how ever, advocates for groups with special requirements clea r ly have been eroding the fundamental goal. If their programs had succeeded with little negative impact on the rest of the student population all well and good. But the evidence shows they have failed to benefit significantly enough the target populations and. have severely limited the educational opportunities of many other children.

Nevertheless, the constituencies favoring the expansion of such federal programs have ignored this evidence--often vilifying those who present it--and have continued to press for more spending 13 and more controls. They have been able to obtain these objectives largely by applying political pressure to government officials and for legislation far removed from the practical realities of I programs To P capped--e other chi rovid e proper education for the disadvantaged and handi ffective help without limiting the opportunities for ldren--the power of the "iron triangles" must be broken.

Measures must be enacted to return control of education to those who deal with it best--the loc alities and the parents. I I To accomplish this, a number of steps are necessary. Among them Public schools should not be required to educate those children who cannot, without damaging the main purpose of public education, function in a normal classroom s etting. Additional expenditures for special school or self-contained classroom place ments should be the responsibility of the family and local com munity. Responsibility for oneself, one's family, and one's neighbors is a fundamental aspect of American s o cial history and a key to the success of American society. When such resources are insufficient, only then should state and federal aid assist local initiatives--without forcing them to comply with mandates from Washington. Federal assistance should be se e n as the assis tance of last #resort, and not a right To fulfill this limited! federal obligation, vouchers and tuition tax credits should be considered as a method of meeting the special needs of truly handicapped children, while keeping control of progr ams and initiatives firmly in the hands of parents.

Vouchers would provide an earmarked grant to parents of the handi capped, so that they would have the means to choose between the alternatives--in short, to vote with their dollars The learning disabiliti es category either should be redefined to reduce substantially the number of children labeled LD or dropped from the funding formula Chapter I should be repealed. It has failed to accomplish its stated aim; input cost is excessively disproportionate to ou t put results; it has created a new deprived group--the highest achievers; and it has weakened the education structure by narrow ing what the regular teacher needs to know and do (i.e how to teach slow students effectively). The way to help educationally de prived, low-income students is to spend the money locally to hire regular teachers who are knowledgeable, persevering, and dedicated to making children learn within the regular classroom.

A modified tracking system would be suitable for this purpose The De partment of Education should be abolished. It has been the power base from which special interest programs have been imposed upon the nation's schools. To accomplish this, the public must be made aware of the facts surrounding many of the 14 well-meaning b ut counterproductive programs supported by the edu cation lobby. Consequently all Departmental programs should be examined closely for their impact on American education and the results made public. A commission on compensatory education and programs for t he handicapped, with members chosen by the President should be established to undertake this difficult assignment and to report back within nine months. b CONCLUSION It was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that the federal government shou ld become involved in education.

Education is not even mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, and until recently, federal interference in education was viewed as unnecessary and dangerous. Indeed, in 1945 the National Educa tion' Association joined with the A merican Council on Education to issue a proclamation stating that Ifthe trend toward the Federal izing of education is one of the most dangerous on the current scene." The last 20 years have amply demonstrated the legitimacy of this concern.

Control of education must be returned to .those who have traditionally dealt with it best: the localities and parents.

Most important, however, there needs to be freedom and perspective to examine the facts, serious discussion about the purpose of education, and hones t appraisal of the philosophy'and policies that have brought education to its knees. There then must be a unified effort to make the changes required.

Reform of the current expensive and ineffective programs can be achieved only if policy makers recognize that Centralization of education in Washington has allowed the policy process to be dominated by self-styled advocates who refuse to accept any evi dence that challenges the effectiveness of the programs they sup port. Only by reversing the process of ce ntralization, and thereby denying a power base to such lobbyists, will the handicapped, slow learners, and other students with special needs obtain effective help with minimum disruption to the normal and gifted child.

Eileen Marie Gardner, Ed.D.

Policy Analyst

About the Author