Eliminating those Pesky Education Earmarks

With the Democratic walk-out in Wisconsin, all bets are off on what only recently seemed to be the possibility of a bipartisan consensus on what to do about No Child Left Behind.  But that does not mean that 2011 will not see significant action on federal education policy. As Republicans look for ways to find the $100 billion dollars of cuts they are promising to make, every little education earmark, big and small, is at risk. Nor will the president will find it easy to resist education earmarks when he opposes the concept of earmarks itself. Compensatory education and special education are the biggest federal education programs, but the remainder runs into tens of billions of dollars, and it is that remainder that has little justification and a dying set of supporters in these days of disappearing earmarks.

Below are just some of those on the chopping block right now.  Hopefully, they are only a downpayment on more and bigger programs to come (vocational education, impact aid, and much more).  While I may like some of these programs, and other sensible people may like others, and still others will make the case that one or another program is not “really” an earmark, there really is no excuse for the federal government’s array of nickel and dime interventions in the nation’s education system.  Data collection, research, provider of information: that is a federal role.  One can also make a federal case for helping the needy through special education and compensatory education—especially if the dollars are given to parents and students to spend.  But the rationale for a potpourri of busy little nothings such as most of those listed below is to be found only in old-fashioned congressional politics that, hopefully, the federal deficit crisis will soon sweep away.

According to a report in Education Week, the following projects are at risk:

  • National Writing Project—$25.6 million
  • Teach for America—$18 million
  • Reading is Fundamental—$24.8 million
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards—$10.7 million
  • New Leaders for New Schools—$5 million
  • Arts in Education—$40 million
  • We the People—$21.6 million
  • Close Up fellowships—$1.9 million
  • Exchanges With Historic Whaling and Trading Partners—$8.6 million
  • Thurgood Marshall Legal Educational Opportunity program—$3 million
  • B.J. Stupak Olympic Scholarships—nearly $1 million

-Paul E. Peterson

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