An Education Bailout? It Won’t Improve Schools

Greg Forster:

It looks like the trillion-dollar “stimulus” (read: pork) bill is going to include a hefty dose of spending on schools. Of course, we don’t know yet what the proposed bill will contain, and the proposal will undergo a lot of revision when it goes through the congressional sausage grinder. But from the leaks and preliminary reports, respectable observers are estimating that as much as $70 billion or even $100 billion may ultimately end up going to K-12 schools. For comparison, after the radical expansion of federal education spending that came with No Child Left Behind, the feds now spend about $40 billion per year on K-12 education.
Politically, it’s a shrewd move. They don’t really care what they’re building, as long as they’re building something, so as long as they’re building a bunch of roads and bridges and community centers they may as well build some schools, too. The teachers’ unions have successfully spread the myth that schools desperately need more facilities spending, even though facilities spending per student almost doubled from 1990 to 2005 (after inflation). So “New School to Be Built” is always a crowd-pleasing headline.

2 thoughts on “An Education Bailout? It Won’t Improve Schools”

  1. seems to me the problem was caused by overstimulating the economy with easy credit,loans to folks who couldent pay back etc. I feel its time to let the economy sort itsrelf out for awhile so that housing prices etc can deflate for awhile. I feel those of us with income need to share with those who have none of reduced income. The sharing by charitable contibutions and taxes.But,realize that we pressure our politicans to “Do Something”Actually doing less may be more of an answer ie less buying from China,lessbuilding,less,less,less for awhile.

  2. “Doing less” is great theory — for those with food on the table, house over your head, and steady income.
    Nonetheless, I’m skeptical of the current stimulus package, but perhaps I’m asking too much. A big piece of the package goes to the State governments themselves, which because of massive budget deficits and the requirement to balance their budgets (even fictitiously) — this piece seems wise to avoid significant state layoffs and decrease of state services. I’ll leave for another time, arguments on whether and which state services are effective.
    Substantial funds for school infrastructure building is not a bad idea for existing schools in need of repair and refurbishing. We’ve got those needs in Madison, and, in the scheme of things, we’re pretty well off compared to other school districts.
    My concern with these “shovel-ready” building projects is the availability of skilled workers all at once to handle the tasks, and how the private contractors (and public) will be hiring and training and compensating the skilled workers.
    As an example of public hiring of skilled workers, MMSD has been decreasing maintenance and building-trades staff. If MMSD gets funds from the stimulus package, will MMSD restaff? Not significantly if at all. MMSD will hire private contractors, who they will pay their new workers the minimum the market will bear and likely not have significant health care benefits.
    The stimulus package is in part trying to buy time and give hope to those at or living at the edge (temporary jobs) and in other parts, creating projects (eg, alternative energy), which will employ people and create markets for the long term.
    I agree that decreasing gluttony, the common State religion, is necessary, but health requires that it not be a crash diet.

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