During his Twitter Town Hall yesterday, President Obama vastly underestimated the size of the bloated Department of Education budget.
The nice thing about the defense budget is it’s so big, it’s so huge, that, you know, a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget. I’m exaggerating. But it’s so big that you can make relatively modest changes to defense that end up giving you a lot of headroom to fund things like basic research or student loans or things like that.
That’s a pretty gross exaggeration. A 1 percent reduction in the Department of Defense’s proposed fiscal year 2012 budget equates to approximately $5.5 billion. That’s a mere 7 percent of the Department of Education’s proposed $77.4 billion budget for elementary, secondary, and higher education.
If the President’s proposed FY2012 education budget is enacted, spending at the agency will have increased 20 percent since 2010 alone, and 58 percent since 2000, after adjusting for inflation. (By contrast, the defense budget has increased only 4.7 percent since 2010.)
Instead of considering meaningful reforms like funding flexibility for states or portability of federal education dollars for low-income children—reforms which would save taxpayer dollars, begin reducing the failed federal role in education, and empower parents—President Obama wants to continuing pouring more money into the oversized and ineffective Department of Education.
More money is not the answer to improving education in America. Since the 1970s, federal education spending has nearly tripled—after adjusting for inflation—yet academic outcomes have remained flat.
Instead of continuing to throw money at the problem and propping up the failed status quo, the President should support measures that could provide immediate relief to states and create meaningful, long-term reform. The A–PLUS proposal would allow states to opt out of the many federal programs under No Child Left Behind, allowing state and local leaders to target federal education dollars to those areas most in need.
At the same time, federal policymakers should work to streamline the Department of Education and drastically reduce the federal role in education by eliminating ineffective and duplicative programs and empowering low-income children through portability of Title I funding for poor school districts.
These steps would represent a bold new approach to federal education policy and a fundamental shift in Washington’s role in education. State and local leaders would have more control over education dollars, spending would be reduced, and parents would be empowered with more decision-making authority about where their children attend school.