21 April 2011

“LIVING WITHIN OUR MEANS”: Some Ideas for the President and Congress (Part 1)

Almost the first words out of the President’s mouth these days as he campaigns—sorry, educates the American people-- are “We need to start living within our means.”

Now, for you and me that usually means that we consider our income and adjust our spending accordingly. For the President, Harry Reid, and Sulkin’ Nancy Pelosi, it means “we decide what we want and then take more money from the people who worked for it and earned it to pay for what we want.” If you and I did that, we’d go to jail.

The Taking Trio always seems to talk about “savings over the next decade,” so here is one man’s alternative for cutting the budget over the next ten years. It will be long, so I’ll do it in parts.

Priority Item Number 1: Get rid of the Department of Education [Savings: $700 billion]

As of a couple of weeks ago, the 2011 budget for the Department of Education stood at $70 billion. This liberal Carter-era department was created by the then-Democratic Party controlled Congress to "establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” The Department of Education does not establish schools or colleges, does not put any teachers in any schools, and does not teach a single child. Rather, the department's mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.”

In other words the Department of Education shuffles paper, tells others what to do, hands out gobs of cash, collects data, reviews data, reports on data, shuffles more paper, duplicates some of the functions of the Department of Justice, and spends more cash. The only thing it does not do is educate.

My undergraduate education was at Illinois State University (nee Illinois State Normal University) which had just been renamed after over a century. I received a BS in Education with a certificate to teach social sciences. At dear old Normal, we had a saying: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach teach others to teach.” It was tongue in cheek and at the time (1964-68), ISU was still one of the premier teacher training universities in America. But there is a kernel of truth there.

The further removed from any endeavor one is, the less likely he or she is to know what is going on. Our ancestors recognized this. Perhaps the major achievement of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation (other than demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation) was the adoption of the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance in 1787.

We still see the effects of those import early laws today. Anyone who has flown over the mid-western and western United States, especially over farm country, has seen the checkerboard pattern of one-mile square “sections” of land. The land ordinance established the basis for the Public Land Survey System. Land was to be systematically surveyed into square townships, six miles on a side. Each of these townships was sub-divided into thirty-six sections of one square mile or 640 acres. In my high school days when we had a year-long Civics class, we learned to read a map and to find a quarter-quarter section (40 acres) based on township and range lines, e.g., “NW quarter-quarter Section of the SE quarter Section, Section 13, Township 4 North, Range 7 East.”

“But what,” you may ask, “has this to do with education?” A good question that bespeaks the failure of your early education.

The land ordinance also created a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools. Schools could be located in section sixteen of their respective townships, or the school section could be sold or rented support public education. And education was a local responsibility thereafter. Later, in the Oregon Territory Act of 1848, an additional section, section 36 of each township, was likewise set aside to support public education.

The point is this: unpaid elected local school boards ran the schools, hired the teachers and oversaw the curriculum necessary to properly educate the children of the community. Real estate taxes were levied to provide additional support. Because the people of the locality had to be convinced that any tax increases were necessary to a proper education of their children, there was an intense interest in education.

The earliest state colleges, pre-dating the Morrill land grant act of 1862, were established by the states to meet the State’s needs for teachers and to apply scientific principles to farming, e.g., Illinois State Normal (1857) and Pennsylvania State University (1855).

Control was at the appropriate level: elementary and secondary schools at the local level and state colleges and universities at the state level.

That is a far cry from the modern model. For instance, the 5,000 employees of the Department of Education have these functions per Department publications. I have added my own definitions, for what they are worth.

Office of the Secretary
• Chief of Staff, i.e., the Secretary’s hatchet man
• Chief Operating Officer, i.e., someone to oversee the Under-Secretary of Education
• Office of Inspector General, i.e., internal snoops
• Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO) , i.e., public relations
• Office of the General Counsel (OGC), i.e., lawyers
• Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs (OLCA), i.e., keeping Congress happy
• Office for Civil Rights (OCR), i.e., more lawyers, duplicating the Department of Justice

You will note that so far, not a bit of education is occurring. Let us continue.

• Institute of Education Sciences (IES), i.e., a bureaucratic office to supervise other bureaucrats
o National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), i.e., a bureaucratic office to create and mandate reports that will justify their continued existence
 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), ), i.e., a bureaucratic office to read those reports
 Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), ), i.e., a tall blond guy who …, oh, wait, a bureaucratic office to go back and tell the local people who had to write the reports what they meant.
• Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII), i.e., those who can’t teach teach others to teach
• Office of the Chief Financial Officer, i.e., the bureaucrat who makes sure every penny collected from the taxpayers goes where the Department wants it to go rather than being spent where it came from
• Office of Management, i.e., a bureaucratic office to oversee the other bureaucrats
• Office of the Chief Information Officer, i.e., a bureaucratic office to buy and use computers to figure out whether computers would be better used in classrooms
• Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, —who really knows??
o Budget Service, ), i.e., a bureaucratic office to create and justify getting a bigger slice of the public pie
• Risk Management Service, i.e., an insurance office. Why? I don’t know, he’s on third, and I don’t give a darn…..

Chief Operating Officer

Office of the Under Secretary (OUS),
• Office of Post secondary Education (OPE), i.e., college is now a federal function
• Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), i.e., so is vocational and adult education
o Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), i.e., a bureaucratic office to use my money to send other people’s kids to college
• President's Advisory Board on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU)’ i.e., a place to stash campaign donors
• President's Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHIHBCU) (same)

You catch my drift? I’ll leave it at that, but here is the rest.

Office of the Deputy Secretary (ODS)
• Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE)
o Office of Migrant Education (OME)
o Student Achievement and School Accountability Programs (SASA)
o President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
• Office of English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement and Academic Achievement for Limited English Proficient Students (OELA)
• Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)
o National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
o Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
o Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
• Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS)
• Office of Innovation and Improvement

Associated federal organizations
• Advisory Councils and Committees
• National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB)
• National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)

Federal Interagency Committee on Education, i.e., bureaucrats talking to bureaucrats on our dime

Note that not a single one of these goes into the classroom. In fact, most are either redistributing money or wasting real educators’ time by demanding reports that can be used to justify the bureaucratic existence and to redistribute the money that locals could more efficiently use.

So, here it is, Mr. President. Close it down and in ten years, you’ll have realized a $700 billion savings. And because a lot of those 5,000 folks have education degrees, you can also help put more teachers in the classroom—if the local school boards want to hire them.

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