Does This Stimulate Change?

January 29, 2009 | Blog

The Washington Post is onto something here (“An Education Stimulus?”)

EDUCATION is poised to win big under the economic stimulus plan hurtling through Congress. But it remains to be seen whether America’s schoolchildren really will be helped by the huge investment of public funds that is being planned. After all, it seems that much of the billions of dollars of new federal spending is aimed at continuing programs and policies that largely have failed to improve student achievement. For the amount of money being spent, Congress should insist on real change, not simply more of the same.

Its editorial underscores what I was saying yesterday in this post (“Overstated”). More money by itself won’t produce educational reform unless the way that money is spent locally changes. It doesn’t appear that such requirements will be made part of the stimulus legislation. Thus, the federal role in education isn’t poised to become more significant apart from covering a higher (albeit still small) portion of overall education costs.

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    February 1, 2009

    Stimulate change? Why should it? That's not the point. We've had 8 years of the federal government stimulating change. To what effect?

    The point of the stimulus isn't to stimulate change it's to keep the economy afloat. That's job number one. You want change? Ask for that after we have some stability in the larger economy.

    So, how does it keep the economy afloat? Well it supports day care centers and the children served in them and the adults who work in them. It keeps hundreds of thousands of teachers employed. It provides enough money to make up for shortfall in the Pell Grant program created by the collapse of the middle class in the last ten years. And it underwrites state and local education funding so that states (also under ferocious economic pressures) can protect other vital local services, ranging from maintaining battered women's shelters to foster care programs.

    Two key points: (1) Economic stimulus isn't program change. It's first things first. All the whining that Obama hasn't solved all of the problems of the world (or the educational world) in its first month in office ring very hollow from a newspaper that cheered on George Bush for the first six years of his disastrous presidency. (2) Every Washington Post editorial calling for national standards and tests should be flagged with a disclaimer reflecting the Post's self-interest in the issue: "Readers should understand that the Washington Post has a great financial stake in overstating the nature of the educational crisis in the United States and the necessity of national standards and more tests since our parent company owns and operates a test prep program (Kaplan) designer-engineered to profit from the fears we engender among anxious and frightened middle class parents."

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