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Audacity of Budgets (Part 6)

The Department of Education

Before we get into the specifics of this department, let’s review a few facts.

 1. Public education is funded by State and Local taxes, no matter which state you live in.

2. A portion of the sales tax you pay in your State is earmarked for education.

3. Your property taxes are also used to fund public education.

4. The Teachers Retirement accounts are in large part funded by State and Local taxes.

Taking these facts into consideration, you begin to realize that this Federal Department is set to spend $77.4 billion to subsidize what is already funded at the State and Local level.

You may also remember that school breakfast and lunch programs are already funded federally in the Department of Agriculture budget. Doesn’t it make you wonder what this $77 billion is being spent on? It should.

As with some of the other Departments we will begin our investigation with the funding highlights.

Bullet point 1: Provides $77.4 billion.

Providing $77.4 billion for what? 

The Budget includes a significant increase for K-12 education, while making tough choices to put the Pell Grant program on a sustainable fiscal path.”

“ A significant increase for K-12 education”?  What could that possibly be for? The Department of Agriculture already pays for school Breakfast, lunch, and out of school lunches. Not only an unexplained increase, but a significant one.

If you look at Bullet point 3, you see that the limit on Pell Grants has been increased. So by tough choices you mean giving each Pell Grant recipients a $819 dollar raise? What he really means is someone else, like those who actually pay taxes, are the ones who are making the tough choices.

Bullet point 2: “Provides $1.4 billion for new competitions, modeled on the successful Race to the Top initiative,”

 Reading that, I almost hurt myself laughing. “the successful Race to the Top initiative.” Successful, according to who? Successful, as measured by what standard?

 This dismal failure of a program was initially introduced in the Stimulus Bill. And you can be sure, if there was any real success with this program Obama would have announced it in a news conference.

 Let’s see what others have to say about the success of this Race to the Top initiative.

 Quoting from dailyyonder.com;

“The federal government is rewarding schools for innovations that don’t work particularly well in rural areas. And the problem is likely to continue.”

 The Washington Examiner published an editorial sighting some major failures in this program showing the awards were not fairly distributed and indicated the program was a waste.

Texas thought so much of the success of this program; they didn’t participate in the program at all. And they weren’t the only ones. Many other states have decided not to participate.

The program is, by all reasonable standards, a failure. Like most government funded education programs, it provides another do nothing rat-nest, where cronyism rules. And yet this administration wants to double-down on every failure.

Bullet point 3: “putting the program on a sustainable fiscal path by eliminating the year-round Pell Grant and the in-school interest subsidy for graduate and professional student loans.”

 We are going to eliminate the year-round version, meaning you can just apply for the normal $5,550 Pell Grant.

 While there are students who take advantage of this program as it was intended, there are many more that abuse it.

 Let’s review how a Pell Grant works.

 You apply and get a Pell Grant for say $5,000. Once you get your grant, you go to your local Jr. College. And you present your grant to the admissions office. It’s like a voucher, authorizing the Jr. College or College to charge the government for your classes and books.

Nothing wrong with that, but the loopholes in the program are so large that you can drive a truck through them. And people are using this program to get a free $4500 to $5000 in cash.

So how do people get over using it you ask? You go to your local Jr. College (these are the most common places that Pell Grants are used because of the lower cost and admission standards). You sign up for all the classes and books that the Grant will pay for. Then you go back the next day and cancel all of the classes except one. And the School gives you a refund in cash

Pretty cool, huh? I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and it happens every single year. The way it should work, is the unused funds should be returned directly to the government by the school.

 Some would argue that a portion of the Pell Grant could be used for living expenses and possibly child care. I say no way; there are other government programs to offset those expenses. 

Bullet point 4: “Strengthens the effectiveness of America’s teachers with $975 million in competitive initiatives to recruit, prepare, reward, and retain great teachers”.

 That will never happen as long as tenure and Teacher’s Unions remain in existence. There are many good teachers out there. And many of them are frustrated, not by budget issues, but by the fact they are forced to work with other teachers who are lazy or incompetent. And there is nothing they can do about it, and the Union won’t.

 The $975 million is just another prop up for under funded Teachers Retirement funds. If you want to reward “great teachers’, then the first thing to do is get rid of the bad teachers. Allowing some to do half-ass jobs while you are doing your job properly is not the way to retain and reward those who do a ‘great’ job.

 Bullet point 5: “Invests $26.8 billion, an increase of 6.9 percent, in a reformed Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)”

 This program is actually the No Child Left Program renamed, and it was renamed so any accomplishments that come from this program can be claimed by Obama.

 The overriding question here is: Why are we increasing the funding for the program by 6.9% when the States are not achieving the original goals to get the money. Why?

 When they should be asking themselves why these schools are in the shape they are in, in the first place.

Blaming the lack of goal attainment on poor students, and students from poor neighborhoods, as well as lack of parental discipline, rather than admitting why there is a real shortage of ‘great teachers’.

 Successful people tend to leave neighborhoods with poor schools. The school quality goes down, and then the people move out. Its not always the other way around. 

“The new ESEA directs funds to reform-oriented competitive initiatives,”

 Oh yeah, like the lauded “Race to the Top initiative”!

 The only “reforms” will be the lowering of the standards set by the original program so everyone can share in the free money. This administration is not interested in rewarding excellence, and this fact is supported by their past actions.

 They only wish to set up these so-called competitions, so everyone can get a piece of the pie. You do a great job you win something. You do an average job you win something. You do a poor job and you win something. Everyone wins something; the winnings are redistributed, as are all of Obama’s budget policies.

 Excellence is not rewarded, it’s diminished. The rewards come to those who do little or nothing more than show up.

Bullet point 6: “Provides $300 million for the Investing in Innovation program to support effective approaches to student learning.”

 What is that? How many initiatives, programs, and reforms are required to get the damn job done? This is the Obama agenda; to create more organizations and programs that do nothing but meet, talk, and pat each other on the back for the ideas they create.

 Take a $300 million fund and spend $250 million on bogus administration, and think tanks, and then outlay $50 million for awards to those who actually do something worthwhile.

 A perfect example is Bullet point 7: “Invests $150 million in Promise Neighborhoods,”

 Yet we see in this article:

Duncan also noted that the number of winners was limited to 21 by the $10 million in funds that the Office of Innovation and Improvement had on hand to mete out”.

 A $150 million program and the Office of Innovation and Improvement only had $10 million to award? Where is the other $140 million?

 Here’s where it went according to ed.gov

 “The President has requested $210 million in his fiscal 2011 budget, including $200 million to support implementation of Promise Neighborhood projects and $10 million for planning grants for new communities.”

 $200 million for “support“; sounds better than bogus administration. Spend $200 million to administer $10 million. Sad to say, but that’s typical government mentality.

 Even at with $200 million in “support”, the program seems to be a failure. Except for the influx of Charter schools, there are no tangible successes from this program. The Promise Neighborhood project was a program with promise, until the government got involved.

Bullet point 8: “Provides over 13 million students with low-cost loans to attend college and provides new rewards for colleges and universities that achieve outcomes for disadvantaged students.”

 Low cost student loans? Don’t we already have low-cost student loans?

 You know that since the passage of the Healthcare Reform bill all Federal Student Loans are initiated and controlled by the Federal Government. There are no more outside companies that process and submit for approval qualified applications for loans. All those organizations that specialized in that sort of thing are now replaced by government workers.

 So several things come to mind;

 One; if the Student Loan program is now part of the HealthCare Bill, then is that department going to oversee this loan program, or is the Dept of Education, Or both?

 Two; which budget is the money coming from; the HealthCare funding or the Department of Education, Or both?

 Three; what exactly are these rewards for the colleges and universities that achieve goals? What are the goals? Who sets the goals? Where are they listed, so John Q. Public can see if the goals are being met?

 It looks like yet another handout to Liberal Colleges and Universities by the way of  student loans.

 Once again, remembering the bulk of Education funding is collected at the State and local level; at the Federal level they are really just padding the pot.  And $77.4 billion is quite a pad.

On the numbers page of this Department (page 71,) the requested Discretionary Budget Authority for 2012 shows $77.4 billion. But this number is arrived at by a mysterious credit entry of $7.7 billion.

 It’s listed as Mandatory savings proposal. I doubt very seriously that this ‘savings’ will ever take place. Mandatory or otherwise. That will bring the budget amount for the Department of Education to $85 billion.

The Budget for this department is beyond being a joke.

Is there any other department that spends so much and gets so little in return?

Is there any other department whose failures are so well known by the American public?

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