Education and Poverty

Education and Poverty
March 5, 2014

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly #28

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan responded to President Barack Obama’s renewed push for further redistributive taxes and social welfare with a huge analysis that calls for overhauling social spending, including $94.4 billion every year in funds for education programs such as Head Start (birth through preschool programs), K-12 funds aimed at poor children, and Pell Grants for college students.

Ryan’s report notes the reality that many still prefer to ignore: “inflation-adjusted spending per pupil has nearly tripled over the past four decades with largely stagnant achievement to show for it.” Not only does federal education spending typically accomplish nothing, it may even harm kids. The report notes research showing daycare vouchers aimed at getting single moms into the workforce can actually end up making them worse moms and their kids less healthy; Head Start may actually make some kids worse at math; and for every $1 they get in Pell Grants, some colleges increase tuition $4. Yes, that’s a quadrupling of college tuition, thanks to federal “help.”

Ryan’s document is only the latest demonstration that the War on Poverty has failed while helping enslave future generations to crushing debt. How ironic--and typical of federal meddling--that programs intended to help children and the poor accomplish the opposite.

It would not be prudent, however, to immediately root out federal programs and leave nothing in their stead. Even many entities one would think are private-sector substitutes for government action, such as nonprofit organizations and business, are captured by liberal ideology, rent-seeking, and cronyism. Government programs have been steadily emaciating civil society and free association for now a hundred years. The answer for those who love freedom and our neighbors is to follow the tradition of Nehemiah, whose little band rebuilt their homeland with one hand and held swords in the other to repel invaders.

What does that mean, practically? As Paul David Miller writes, “Alexis de Tocqueville believed that the way to sustain and renew democratic civilization, was to encourage face-to-face human relationships. It is trite and clichéd but true: the first step in saving democracy in America is to go to school, get and stay married, spend time with your children, and go to church. … The solution is to devolve power away from the federal government, diffuse it among states, individuals, civil society, and the market, but also to strengthen its exercise through our participation.”

Some second steps might be forming parent-school associations actually responsive to parent concerns, councils for literature and math teachers that elevate content and excellence, organizations representing conservative school board members, vibrant new schools, teacher preparation programs that jettison political activism for knowledge and experience, and more. Many such efforts are already underway. The more, the faster, the better.

MORE INFORMATION: The Washington Post, The Federalist


School Choice Roundup

  • DC: President Barack Obama again decides to use poor and mostly black kids for political gain by axing the District’s vouchers in his new budget proposal.
  • CALIFORNIA: A ballot initiative would prohibit businesses from running charter schools and require charters to comply with open records laws. Fewer than ten charter schools in the state are for-profit entities, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Common Core Watch

  • CCSS ALTERNATIVES: It’s not that hard to give kids a good education. Here’s how.
  • MISSOURI: The House education committee approves a bill to repeal Common Core. “This is not an anti-standards bill,” says the Show-Me Institute’s James Shuls. “It’s a bill that disputes the idea that a world-class education must come from a centrally imposed standard.”

Education Today

  • DEMOCRATS: The intra-party split on education politics has reappeared, as teachers union forces and pro-charter Democrats duke it out in New York and elsewhere. These writers say this fight is coming to the 2016 presidential primaries and towns everywhere.

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)