An underrated feature of President Trump’s first term has, without a doubt, been the visceral hatred directed at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from self-interested people who defend our garbage public education system with every fiber of their being.
With her budget proposal out Monday, DeVos shows just how much it bothers her — which is to say, it doesn’t.
Although it’s certain to go nowhere with Democrats in the House, the proposal still serves as a giant middle finger to the teachers unions and lazy school administrators who year after year swear that academic achievement would soar if they only had still more money.
DeVos proposes in the budget that the department cease overseeing nearly $20 billion in federal money that goes to various K-12 public school programs such as “Indian Education” and “21st Century Community Learning Centers.” Instead, that money would roll into one block, and states would receive their share to spend on the local level.
For teachers unions, the utterance of the word “local” is akin to throwing holy water on the possessed. “Local” means cutting out high-level bureaucrats and shrinking the power of lobbyists.
The proposal cuts about $5 billion from the overall existing budget, a department official told me. But what difference would that make? The Obama administration in 2009 pumped $3 billion into a program that awarded an extra $2 million to underperforming public schools, so long as they made certain reforms. The money came from the School Improvement Grants initiative. And yet, according to a study by the education department published at the start of 2017, “Overall, across all grades, we found that implementing any [School Improvement Grant]-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.”
Placing virtually all K-12 funding into the hands of states and school districts would essentially cut the department’s responsibilities in half — a move in the direction that DeVos has pushed for with some success.
It won’t happen — even under the best circumstances, Congress ignores presidential budgets. But the signal it sends to the public has value — that we don’t have to keep doing things the way they are being done now and are not working. There’s also value simply in exposing the teachers unions that keep failing students.
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