April 4, 2010

Obama's "Race to the Top" competition over money for schools hasn't worked out so well.

Why are only Delaware and Tennessee getting the money?
Officials from several states criticized the scoring of the contest, which favored states able to gain support from 100 percent of school districts and local teachers’ unions for Obama administration objectives like expanding charter schools, reworking teacher evaluation systems and turning around low-performing schools.

Marshalling such support is one thing for a tiny state like Delaware, with 38 districts, they said, and quite another for, say, California, with some 1,500.
Oh, how I loathe these federal intrusions into state and local decision-making about public schooling. Money is raked out of the states and then dangled in front of them to entice them to do things they don't want to do and couldn't be forced to do by direct regulation. And the ultimate, ironic slap in the face is they don't even get the money. Let that be a lesson!

48 comments:

Joe said...

First thing a republican congress needs to do is get the federal government out of education all together, including the damn loan business.

Beta Rube said...

Is there any evidence that the Federal intrusion into local education, which started under Carter and has grown every year since has done any measurable good?

Why do we keep a Federal Department of Education? Where is the benefit for the vast expenditures?

Why is it such a Sacred Cow? What am I missing?

Alex said...

Beta Rube - because liberals don't believe in localities and states. They think we should all just live under one federal district. All 300 million of us. Just put a barcode on our foreheads and be done with it.

I LOVE BIG BROTHER.
DOWN WITH GOLDSTEIN.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

JAL said...

I think this kind of competition is stupid. A competition for government money for education? Isn't this TAX money?? (Or is it Monopoly money?)

And this from a group of people who want all kids to win and feel good about themselves and have perfect self esteem.

If kids are entitled (?!) to federal tax money (I'm all for ending the DOE too) why aren't they equally entitled?

Maguro said...

Why don't the Feds fix the DC public schools before going out and telling everyone else what to do? After their refoms turn those schools right around, the states will be willing to sign on without being bribed, right?.

rhhardin said...

You have to spend money to compete for Federal money; which spent money is a complete loss for the losers in the competition.

The winners are the ones that spend the most on proposal-drafting staff and experts.

There's the true race to the top.

The one that puts the most dollars down the toilet wins.

The general economic rule is that it's not possible to give away free money, even if everybody acts with the best of intentions up and down the line.

Free money attracts expenditures to get the free money, and that total expended money will rise well beyond the total free money given away.

That results in a dead loss to the economy.

Now add that the ideas are in addition bad ones, and you have an additional spectacular loss all around.

edutcher said...

The idea that only the Feds can divine the correct way to educate children is the cornerstone of the Left and this administration, in particular.

As you say, the money is conditional on 100% approval of the teacher unions. Kell Sir Prize.

Why Delaware is only one of 2 states getting the money? Obviously it's because of a much-loved celebrity on this blog who claims it as a birthland. And, no, that person's nom de guerre is not Mrs. Meade.

And I don't think Tennessee is the other because it's the home of the Instas, Pundit and Wife.

WV "kangst" When a stressed marsupial needs Haldol.

themightypuck said...

I kind of agree with what Prof. Althouse said in her diavlog with Matt Welch. Healthcare makes a lot more sense for federal funding than K-12 education. When did they stop paying for that with local property taxes anyway? I've also heard that things really start to suck around highschool. Does anyone know if this is true?

dick said...

Agree with you totally. Why should all this money funnel up to the feds and the end result being that each level of govt takes its cut before it works its way back to the local level. Why not just give it to the locals to do it right in the first place.

VW: oders - can't decide if it is a play on odors or oh dears.

PatCA said...

I agree--it's the most absurd Rube Goldbergian way possible of improving schools. But it's all about power, really.

F. Hayek is spinning in his grave. IMHO all of the polarizing of the last decade is due to what Hayek warned about: when government picks the winners and losers, class warfare follows.

Chase said...

Surprisingly, the New York Times doesn't agree with you, Ann.

Iapetus said...

"Money is raked out of the states and then dangled in front of them to entice them to do things they don't want to do and couldn't be forced to do by direct regulation."

But a huge college student loan program that helps to drive up the rate of inflation in the cost of higher education (and coincidently allows universities to pay high salaries to administrators and faculty alike).... well, that's just fine and dandy.

mariner said...

Compulsory public education is a disaster and should be abolished.

Federal control over education has been worse than a disaster.

carlbridges said...

"Money is raked out of the states and then dangled in front of them to entice them to do things they don't want to do and couldn't be forced to do by direct regulation."

Too true. I live in Tennessee and think well of my state rep and senator and governor, but it's embarrassing to watch their unseemly glee over "winning" the federal money.

Ironclad said...

The best analogy of this type of program is that of a person that spends the food budget for the month on lottery tickets, hoping for that "big win" to pay off the rest of the bills. Rarely works and is even more unlikely to even break even, given the resources that have to be expended just to compete.

Programs like this are testimony to the huge education bureaucracy finding a "purpose" for itself. Ditto the federal education departments using "contests" like this to train these state organizations like Pavlov's dog to move toward "goals". And at a local level, I see our local schools cutting more and more to make up for the lack of funds for just basic instruction. As was said above by rhhardin, it's just money down the toilet.

The Fed's need to get out of education - and let the money they suck out of the system get back to the kids.

Pogo said...

rhhardin's take is excellent.

From here, it looks like a scam, with all levels, local to federal, participating.

The districts that 'lost' will ask for money to cover their losses, and more to compete better next year. The goal is not better schools, it's more money put into the coffers of state and federal gummint and the teacher's unions.

We're being played, by experts.


And this is how socialism destroys everything it touches.

E Buzz said...

"Oh, how I loathe these federal intrusions into state and local decision-making about public schooling."

Racist.

mun said...

The department of education should be abolished altogether. Other departments should be abolished or consolidated under superior departments. Look at this picture cabinet meeting and tell me how you get anything done.

MadisonMan said...

I find myself in agreement with everyone here. I don't know if I loathe these programs like Althouse does -- that takes a lot of energy that I might not have all the time -- but they do seem to be a big waste of time and money.

I really don't know why the DOEd exists. Other than as a place for political appointees to sit and draw a paycheck. Who really supports it? I'm mystified.

AJ Lynch said...

When you consider that 80-85% of the country's school districts do a fine job, I think many of us are tiring of hearing about the education crisis. It's really a parenting crisis predominantly found in big city school districts. To fix it, we'd have to build a bunch of orphanages and take kids out of the almost criminally dysfunctional households.

Parker Smith said...

I like to ask people:

"If we shut down the Department of Education today, would there be any schools that couldn't open tomorrow?"

Class factotum said...

To fix it, we'd have to build a bunch of orphanages and take kids out of the almost criminally dysfunctional households.

OK.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

All part of the plan.

By giving all the money to only two states, Duncan creates the political will to expand the pile of money available so that the other states can get some.

Sheesh, you people really don't understand how money laundering works, do you?

Larry J said...

"Money is raked out of the states and then dangled in front of them to entice them to do things they don't want to do and couldn't be forced to do by direct regulation."

This is widespread across the federal government well beyond education. Consider highway funds: they tax us at the state and local level, skim at least 20% off the top to feed the bureaucracy, then tell the states they can have some of the money back only if they comply with the latest dictates from the federal government.

As others pointed out, it costs money to compete for federal grants. We had a local school disctict that ended up spending more on some grant applications than the grant itself was worth. How stupid is that?

Calypso Facto said...

I've never understood why anyone would support the DoEd model over local control:

Local taxes to the locally elected school board allocated to local schools, transparently collected and spent

vs

Federal taxes collected by a bloated Federal bureaucracy and allocated (perhaps through a rigged competition) by an unnecessary and politically motivated Federal bureaucracy to a politically motivated State bureaucracy to the local school board to local schools

Of course it's all about redistribution, influence, and the casino-like thrill of getting your own money back as "winnings", but it sickens me to see how complacent we've become to the process.

Just think of the efficiencies to be gained by eliminating two levels of disinterested (and expensive) middle persons.

Joseph said...

"Is there any evidence that the Federal intrusion into local education, which started under Carter and has grown every year since has done any measurable good?"

Federal intrusion into local education started when the South refused to comply with Brown v. Board.

"And the ultimate, ironic slap in the face is they don't even get the money."

It is a competition. Only states that had the very best plans and the realistic capacity to implement them won. I say this is a refreshingly smart use of federal dollars.

Bill Harshaw said...

I'm surprised there's no good words for the idea of expanding charter schools and loosening the hold of teacher's unions.

Calypso Facto said...

Re: Joseph and Bill

I can agree that trying to spend Federal money in a targeted fashion, expanding charter schools, and forcing some accountability on teachers unions are all good things. But why is my money as a Wisconsin taxpayer going towards making these changes in Tennessee?

wv: subsumal. Less than a 3.9 GPA?

PatCA said...

AJ,
Apparently about 85% of the people are happy with their health care, too, so I wonder where that crisis is. I see a pattern here...

BTW I think everyone in the media should be forced to stop saying "government" money and instead say "fellow taxpayers'" money.

AJ Lynch said...

Patca:

Haha - excellent point. And 90% of us are legal residents so they are gonna make 100% of us get biometric soc sec cards. So, yes, you perceive a pattern that is real and unfortunately oppressive to people like you and me.

Here is the liberal, Democrat SOP:

When 10% or so of Americans are hopeless or clueless or illegal, let's interfere with and screw with everyone.

Big Mike said...

Well, considering where Joe Biden hails from, I can figure out why Delaware got "RttT" money. Tennessee is harder to figure out.

I like what Maguro said. Considering that the DC schools spend over $24,000 per pupil (my source is this article in the Washington Post, throwing money at schools isn't a workable solution.

paul a'barge said...

Oh, how I loathe these federal intrusions into state and local decision-making about public schooling.

Thank you George W Bush. Who is not nor ever has been a Conservative.

Sheesh.

JAL said...

I had a thought and then Ironclad took one of the words right out of my brain.

It would make more sense for the schools in states with education lotteries to spend $50 or $100 twice a year and play their own state's "education" lottery.

Here in Western North Carolina that is the only way we'll even get a significant cut of the state "education" lottery, since the downstate people have written the rules to make sure we get less of the pie.

Take some of the money used on all these seminars they make "educators" go to and they'll have a small statistical chance (however tiny) of getting some new toy for their programs.

That would make more sense than a stupid competition for money from the federal government for education.

JAL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

"I'm surprised there's no good words for the idea of expanding charter schools and loosening the hold of teacher's unions."

I don't like using federal money to bully the states into adopting these reforms. If they are good reforms, let the states choose them.

Alex said...

Ann - the problem is your believe in federalism. Obamacrats believe in centralized top-down diktats.

Pogo said...

It's a quagmire!

US out of local schools!

Bill said...

money '...raked from the states..' is the widespread federal pattern I'd like to see stopped and reversed. Most of our states have enough size, wealth (critical mass) to fund and manage their own programs and thereby eliminate this federal bullying.

In other words: Take away their money! It will reduce a lot of related corruption issues, too.

Milwaukee said...

Our schools are broken, and these are more band aids to fix problems caused by previous band aids. When complaining about federalized health care, don't compare it to the Post Office, which actually does deliver mail. The comparison should be with schools: for years high schools have produced graduates going to college where one-third take remedial Math, one-third take remedial English, and one-half taking both.

We don't need nationalized standards: If graduates are able to perform in college and the workforce with the standards in place, those are good enough. If not, the local schools need to change them.

Schools are the ultimate in socialized service, and too many parents are leaving the responsibility for raising their children with the schools. The result is that schools are more segregated than before 1954, and producing worse results.

Will we ever get rid of Head Start, with it's documented lack of success? Or fully fund vouchers to compete with public schools? Parochial school teachers take salary cuts. Public school teacher unions demand layoffs to drive up class sizes, blackmailing communities into tax increases.

If what is meant to be funded with the "race to the top" money is good for one state and one school district, it should be good for all schools.

I once had the district Superintendent suggest we could do staff development through retirement. Those teachers just won't retire fast enough.

Dr. Tax in Sacramento said...

I have an odd take on this issue - if RTTT is the alternative to NCLB - then I am in full support. NCLB as Diane Ravitz finally admitted was a horrible experiment. In California RTTT did two things positive (even though we did not get in on the boodle) - first it lifted the cap on charter schools and second it revised the opportunity to discipline lousy teachers. Perhaps the best deal for the state was changing the law and then not getting the dough.

I am mostly in agreement about how much the feds should be in education although I do believe in Title IV for student aid at the higher education level.

Patrick said...

Tell you what: Let's just give the money to states that voted for The Won in the last election. Let's also accept that the incoming Republican administration can act likewise.

Oh. Right. Republican.

Never mind.

The Grey Man said...

After years of lies, hundreds of billions, and millions of ruined lives it's time for the US to immediately withdraw from....... the classroom.

Bruce Hayden said...

I have a lot of problems with this, but one of the largest ones is that it is effectively conditioned on union buy-in. That means that these two states likely had some of the weakest proposals, and yet still won big. The message: don't cross the teachers' unions.

This isn't, of course, the Administration's or the Democrats' only payoff to the unions. Installing solar panels under the "stimulus" program apparently requires union wages too. Ditto for much of the rest of the infrastructure spending.

The theory seems to be that it is better to create one union wage job than 2, 3, or 4 lower priced jobs. But, those over-paid jobs are funded by essentially putting more than one person out of work, at the lower wages - which arguably is one reason that the unemployment has risen over 2% since the "stimulus" was passed into law.

I think that it should be obvious that the government is not going to really create jobs if they demand union level wages, when there are plenty willing to work these days for far less.

M. Simon said...

Why do we keep a Federal Department of Education?

Because we have really ignorant people running the government.

WV: nedness - and they can't spell either

Jack Okie said...

Bill and others:

But what is the fundamental reason the money is "raked out of the states"? Why don't the states have any leverage to hang on to their money? Because the 17th Amendment royally screwed the checks and balances.

The Founders intended that Senators represent the States, not the populace; in reality this meant Senators represented the state legislatures that elected them. Any senator that acted against the interests of the legislature (like hoovering up their money to DC) would find themselves out of a job.

If we repeal the 17th Amendment, and ensure that the repealing amendment specifies that the state legislatures are the sole determiners of both electing and recalling Senators, we will address the fundamental problem much better than band-aids like term-limits, etc.

submandave said...

"Why do we keep a Federal Department of Education? Where is the benefit for the vast expenditures?"

1. Because once a federal bureaucracy has been electro-shocked into life it is harder to kill then Barnabas Collins.
2. The benefit lies in having yet another vehicle that can be used to hold the states and constituents beholden to the feds and elected reps.

Jack, amen on your 17th Amendment points. As much as people (libertarians in particular) like to revile the 16th, the unbounded growth of the federal government's power and reach can be traced to the direct election of Senators. At that point, Senators ceased to be a check on power and simply took up the role of being "at-large" Representatives, making the Congress a bread & circus exercise full time.

Blue@9 said...

First thing a republican congress needs to do is get the federal government out of education all together

It's ironic that it was the last Republican Congress and Bush that did the most to create this federal encroachment.


Regardless, I'm going to split ways with my fellow conservatives on this one: This is one area where I do think it makes sense for the federal gov't to get more involved. I've always thought that the current method of funding and developing curricula for public schools is asinine. Why is it funded by property taxes? Why do basic curricula differ from state to state? Is there any reasoning behind this madness?

Think about the funding madness. Why is done through property taxes? The easily foreseeable result is that rich districts have great schools and poor districts have shitty schools. Why isn't the funding centralized? I see no rationale for the notion that schools in poor districts should try to make due with less money. Why not centralize the funding? If we're talking about a national network of public education, why is the funding so weirdly local? Can you imagine running the military that way?

As for curricula, I've always thought there should be a basic national curriculum, around which the local districts could add some regional-focused topics. Does math change from state to state? Science? English? No. States should be able to add some state-specific history lessons, but the basics about world and national history? I don't see why that should be a game of political football.

Freedom's Truth said...

"I'm surprised there's no good words for the idea of expanding charter schools and loosening the hold of teacher's unions."
"I don't like using federal money to bully the states into adopting these reforms. If they are good reforms, let the states choose them."

But the point is still valid, in that we have $80 billion streaming to fund totally 100% broken/failed/bad programs like bilingual education... why not at least recognize the OTHER failures of Federal Education funding while lamenting this? (as it is at least pushing some reforms that work)

End earmarks, end federal mandates, end Federal spending on education, limit highway funding to ONLY true interstate programs (not 'big dig' stuff)...