By admin | September 30, 2010
//This is the fourth post in a series on the common lies about the Tea Party Movement, which can be reviewed here.//
Although different forms of the federally funded agency now known as the Department of Education have existed from the mid 1950’s or so, it was not until 1979 that it began to become the huge department, with multibillion dollar budgets that it has now become.
Up until 1979 the various forms of the Department of Education were based around keeping track of graduation rates and other measures of education across each of the states within the United States. Their entire job was to keep track of education in the US, not to help guide or fund it in any way.
In 1979, however it became a full department within the federal government with its stated mission being:
“The mission of the Department of Education is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence.”
With such a wonderfully stated goal some have asked why so many in the Tea Party have pushed for the elimination of this taxpayer funded federal department.
Some have suggested that Tea Party supporters are simply against education, aren’t intelligent, or simply don’t value education. The fact is that this could not be farther from the truth.
As CNN discovered in a recent poll on the Tea Party, upwards of 75% of those that are actively involved in the Tea Party have a college education. Thus, the idea that the Tea Party does not support or value education is completely false and without merit.
So, the question comes again, why are many of the supporters of the Tea Party advocating that the Department of Education be eliminated?
The Short Answer
The short answer is that the Department of Education has become a bloated, overbearing, department, that never had any power to help build a better education system, and has simply become a waste of taxpayer money with no benefit being provided to either the taxpayer or the students that they are supposed to be helping educate.
The Long Answer
Of course many will say that the short answer makes for great rhetoric, but the real key is in proving that point. So here we go:
From 1980 to 2008 the US Department of Education has cost the US taxpayer $1,019,520,986,000.
In that time the amount of money spent on each student in the US, in elementary and secondary schools, has risen from $5,639 to $10,041 (measured in constant 2007 dollars). For a better view of this see the chart below:
With this ever-increasing expenditure there has been no improvement in high school graduation rates within the US. See the chart below:
Although the chart above actually ends in 1996 with a 70% graduation rate, there has been no improvement in the graduation rate since then, as a matter of fact in 2006 the rate was 69.2% and in 2007 it was 68.8%.
Along with this there has been little change in the drop out rate, as this graph from 1992 to 2005 shows:
Of course many may say that to improve test scores we have to spend more money. With that in mind the Department of Education itself has used a test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But, once again the taxpayer is disappointed to see that even by the Department of Educations own assessment, test scores have not improved at all, while at the same time the amount spent on that non-effective education has sky rocketed.
Along with this comes the revelation, from within congress itself that many of the earmarks, which have cost taxpayers untold multiple millions of dollars, which are being made to the Education Departments budget have very little to do with funding education at all, and have a lot more to do with our representatives getting to put their own names on projects that are paid for at the taxpayers expense.
Of course some may ask, if the taxpayer isn’t getting their moneys worth, and the students are not getting a better education from all of this money being spent, who is benefiting from this system?
The answer is the unions, specifically teachers unions, which is a strong voter block, so truly our politicians have abducted our children’s futures both educationally and financially to buy votes for themselves.
I came across this wonderful graphic at the Cato Institute which helps to illustrate this point. It shows just how much employment within schools across the country has increased as compared to increases in student enrollment. You will notice that new employee hiring at schools have way outstripped student enrollments, and I have little doubt that a majority of those new hires belong to the unions also.
Along with that comes another study that I happen to come across at the Cato Institute. This study deals with the cost of educating students in Washington DC’s public schools, some of the worst performing schools in the nation, which are controlled by the teachers unions, and compares them to the cost of private schools within Washington DC, which are some of the most elite schools in the nation, and generally have no unions at all.
Here is what that study found:
The average cost per student in DC public schools: $24,606.00
The average tuition per student in private schools in DC: $11,627.00 (the median cost is actually lower at: $10,043.00)
That is a difference of nearly $13,000 per student, and this kind of situation exists all over the country and is a direct result of the Department of Educations consistent proclamation that all that is needed to improve our schools is more money, and the Teacher Unions insistence that the schools are underfunded and can only survive if more money is poured in. So everyone from our politicians, to the average voter, to the parent with children in school assumes that this must be a true statement, but as this study shows, the government could actually give parents the tuition for private school, and the taxpayer would actually be better off in the exchange…
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And you don’t have to take my word for it, you can hear it directly from this very frustrated teacher about how the unions are stopping her from being able to help her students in the best way possible:
Also, there’s an upcoming feature film, from the director of “An Inconvenient Truth” that is getting a lot of interest from people on both sides of the political isle, on why our education system is so very broken. You’ll notice that they never talk about not having enough money for the school, but the fact that the system is broken, the system that the teachers unions control.
The one thing that many point to as a good thing that the Department of Education does is that it funds the federal college loan program. But even in this “bright spot” comes the question of whether they have done more harm than good. This is because, while the median income in the US has gone up about 150% since 1982, the cost of a college tuition has risen by over 400%.
Most of this rise in the cost of college tuition has not come from the schools providing such a better product that more people want it, but instead it comes from the fact that the US government has flooded the education market with tax payer backed student loans. This has come to the point that many have begun to question whether the shear cost to the students, and the taxpayers are actually worth this inflated cost.
So, finally with all of that said, many in the Tea Party have come to the conclusion that since the Department of Education has failed at helping students graduate in higher rates, failed at reducing drop out rates, failed at improving test scores, and has been partly responsible for putting so many people into such high amounts of debt to pay for education, which may never pay for its original costs, maybe its time that we end this experiment in “improving” education.
Before the Federal Department of Education became involved in helping to fund the education of children, each state was responsible for its own educational programs and funding. Thus the taxpayers of each state could decide for themselves how to fund education and how much it was worth for their own state. And as the charts above show they did a very fine job of it…
In 1970 the average cost per student was $4,489 (in 2006 dollars), 44% less than in 2007, and the high school graduation rate in 1970 was around 75% over 6% higher than in 2007.
So, with such a winning record the real question that should be asked isn’t, “Why should we eliminated the Department of Education?”, but instead should actually be, “Why shouldn’t we eliminate the Department of Education?”
This is the question that many in the Tea Party have asked, but we have yet to hear any reasons that involve helping students or making sure taxpayers get what they are paying for.
But, we have certainly heard an entire chorus on how this system has been good for the teachers unions and the politicians that they support…
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