When it comes to addressing the inadequacies of public school funding there are those of a certain political ideology who are fond of exhorting that the answer isn’t simply “throwing money at the problem”. This argument is used by people attempting to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility, when in actuality it is most often a thinly veiled disguise for a much more sinister agenda. Namely, the dismantling of public schools and the demonization of those across the political aisle.
Never mind the fact that we have never actually tried throwing an adequate amount of money at schools. In fact in many cases, such as special education services, the federal government doesn’t even fund its own mandates. Instead schools are expected to meet an ever increasing list of state and federal standards and outcomes in order to prove that they are worthy of a pittance that rarely comes close to meeting the inflationary cost of doing business.
Schools that fail to meet adequate yearly progress are subject to federal administrative takeover and loss of funding. Students at those schools are allowed the opportunity to transfer to another school in hopes of a better education - as if shifting students rather than fixing the system is the solution. If circumstances persist, underperforming schools may be closed all together.
I was thinking about this as I heard the news that Congress recently passed a $100 billion appropriation to fund the continual occupation of Iraq. With public support for the occupation at an all time low, an increasing number of retired military personal expressing concern over the President’s handling of the situation and a cumulative price tag of nearly half a trillion dollars, I would expect the so-called fiscal conservatives to be lining up like a Greek Chorus in defense of our precious tax money.
Ad yet, nothing.
Where are the calls for standards and outcomes? How about a performance-based funding strategy with allocation directly tied to the number of liberated Iraqis? If military administrators are unable to maintain a satisfactory level of competence, will enlisted personal be allowed to transfer to a different assignment? Will those failing administrators be replaced? At some point, if the situation doesn’t improve, they must surely plan to shut things down altogether. Afterall, its about supporting the troops, and they deserve better than what they've been given.
In recent government history, making "tough choices" has become code language for budget cutting. Whose making the tough choices now? For that matter, whose even asking the questions? If school administrators demanded money for their operations the way the President does they would be hung in effigy by the self-appointed economic watchdogs. And then they wouldn't get the money.
How long until the fiscal conservatives declare that simply “throwing money at the problem” in Iraq will no longer make a difference?
The silence is deafening.