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WebMemo #679 on Education

March 9, 2005

Small Steps Toward Smarter Education Spending

By and

The President's FY 2006 budget request eliminates or consolidates funding for education programs that have achieved their original purposes, duplicate other programs, may be carried out with more flexible state formula grants, or involve activities that are better or more appropriately supported with state, local, or private resources. While attempts at fiscal responsibility have been rebuffed in the past, Congress should follow the President's lead this time and cut ineffective and special-interest programs to help reduce the deficit and be a better steward of taxpayer dollars.

 

Table 1 lists the programs that President George W. Bush's 2006 budget proposes for elimination.

 

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Many of the programs proposed for elimination have been unable to demonstrate their effectiveness. Of the 56 Department of Education programs rated by the Office of Management and Budget's Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART) in 2005, 40 either did not demonstrate results based on the their own stated goals and reported outcomes or were found to be ineffective.[1] The President has eliminated funding for many of these ineffective programs in his budget proposal.

 

Other evaluations have cast doubts on these same special-interest programs.[2] Research on the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration Program, for example, found that most of the models funded under this program are unsupported by any evidence. And in December 2002, the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR) reviewed 29 programs funded under the Comprehensive School Reform program and found that only three of the programs achieved their stated objectives.[3] Seventeen-or more than half-of the programs could not produce enough evidence to be judged as either effective or ineffective. Moreover, funding for these school-wide programs is already available under Title I to schools with poverty rates of 40 percent or higher.[4]

 

In other cases, programs are duplicative. For example, states may pay for activities under the Foreign Language Assistance, Ready-to-Teach, Star Schools, and National Writing Project, and other programs with funding from Improving Teacher Quality State Grants or the State Grants for Innovative Programs. The Alcohol Abuse Reduction program duplicates activities under the Safe and Drug Free School program. The Perkins Loan program is duplicative of the Stafford Loan program. Other programs, such as Close Up Fellowships, which already receive some private funding, could be completely supported by the private sector. Still others, such as the Underground Railroad Program, have completed their missions.[5]

 

Other programs just do not belong in the federal budget. For example, the Historic Whaling and Trading Partners program, which provides over $8 million to museums and heritage centers for internships and apprenticeships, is not an appropriate use of federal education tax dollars aimed at improving academic achievement.[6]

 

Some programs are intended for only small groups of students or institutions, and others have no justification at all. For example, Congress funds the Women's Educational Equity Act, created to promote "educational equity for women and girls," even though girls achieve higher education outcomes than boys on almost every indicator education excellence.Last fall, 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 and have essentially closed the gap in math and science. Girls outscore boys in both reading and writing. They are less likely to repeat grades or engage in risky behavior. Girls are more likely to graduate from high school and college.[7]

 

For all these reasons, the educational programs eliminated in the President's FY 2006 budget do not deserve federal funding. The Republican congressional leadership has called for the elimination of some of the same programs as the President-specifically Arts in Education, Community Technology Centers, Comprehensive School Reform, and the Javits Gifted and Talented Program. These cuts would be only a small step toward smarter education spending. But still, it would be a step in the right direction.

 

Krista Kafer is Senior Policy Analyst for Education, and Jonathan Butcher is Research Assistant for Domestic Policy, at The Heritage Foundation.



[1] White House Office of Management and Budget, Department of Education Program Assessment Rating Tool 2005, at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2006/pma/education.pdf

[2]Hannah Gladfelter Rubin, "Federal Study Cites Flaws in After-School Programs," Education Daily, February 5, 2003, pp. 1, 3; David Skinner, "Computers Don't Help," Public Interest, No. 147 (Spring 2002); Austan Goolsbee and Jonathan Gurvan, "The Impact of Internet Subsidies in Public Schools," National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2002.

[3] Hannah Gladfelter Rubin, "Study: Most Whole-School Programs Lack Research," Education Daily, December 5, 2002, pp. 1-2.

[4]Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Summary, "Section III Programs Proposed for Elimination," February 2, 2004 at www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget05/summary/edlite-section3.html

[5]Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Summary, "Section III Programs Proposed for Elimination," February 2, 2004 at www.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget05/summary/edlite-section3.html.

[6]See Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement at http://www.ed.gov/programs/whaling/index.html.

[7]Catherine E. Freeman, Trends in Educational Equity of Girls & Women: 2004, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, NCES 2005-016, November 2004,

at /static/reportimages/38AF2035F8D84264A705D6996A3736EF.pdf.

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