Due to the numerous problems our public education system is faced with, the federal government has stepped in by increasing funding. This seems like a valid solution, but according to Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute, “Washington spends huge amounts in the name of education but gets almost no educational improvement in return.”
One example of unnecessary and wasteful spending is in the Obama administration’s “Education Blueprint: An Economy Built to Last,” which is a plan to invest $25 billion “to make sure that we can keep teachers in the classroom.” While this may seem good, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation writes, “More teachers now teach fewer students than at any point in history.” She says that between 1970 and 2010, student enrollment increased by 7.8 percent, while “education staff” went up 84 percent. Another example of wasteful spending is Head Start, which is an $8 billion program for preschool-aged students. According to McCluskey, “the fact is there's no meaningful evidence the program does any good. In fact, the most recent federal evaluation found that Head Start produces almost no lasting cognitive benefits, and its few lasting social-emotional effects include negative ones.” These are just a few examples of government waste. What we need are true reforms that actually improve the quality of education.
I believe that the best way to improve quality is by giving more control to the state governments, which can create more tailored approaches for their students. One viable solution is the American Partnerships Lead Us to Success Act (A-PLUS Act). According to Education Week, each state could choose to opt out of No Child Left Behind and could set up their own goals for student performance, which must be approved by the Department of Education. According to PBS, No Child Left Behind “dramatically increases the role of the federal government in guaranteeing the quality of public education for all children in the United States -- with an emphasis on increased funding for poor school districts, higher achievement for poor and minority students, and new measures to hold schools accountable for their students' progress.” This big government approach has not worked to improve schools. By allowing states to get out of the one-size-fits-all approach to education, they can test new and innovative systems.
Jeb Bush, in the state of Florida, is working on reforms at the state level. He founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which produced a plan titled “Florida’s Education Revolution.” His guiding principles for reformation are, “holding schools accountable for results, setting high expectations, rewarding success, giving families real school choice, and attracting talent into the classroom.” The basis for his whole plan is the “The A-F School Grading System.” The grade that each school gets is not only dependent upon whether a school can get many students at the “proficient” level, but also on whether each individual student is progressing. The bottom 25 percent of all students is given a higher weight in the calculation, forcing schools to focus on them. The schools that receive an A grade get more funding from the state. Students in failing schools are given options to attend a new schools. According to Foundation for Excellence in Education, “While Florida still has far to go to ensure that all children receive a high quality education… these common sense and now proven reforms can spur real improvement in student learning.”
If we want true reforms that give every student the high-quality education they deserve, we must empower states to be more innovative in their approach. By relying on the federal government, we are wasting billions of dollars on failing educational methods.
Lindsey Hubbart Columnist
Hubbart is a sophomore majoring in economics. Comments can be sent to email@example.com.