Dubya’s Failure vs. Jeb’s Success

January 8, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Heritage Foundation released a study by Dan Lips and yours truly today making the case that real education reform needs to come up from the states, rather than down from the federal government.  We focus on the success of Florida’s reforms, the disappointment of NCLB, and note that in fact NCLB threatens Florida’s continued success. Now the Bushies are exiting the Washington scene, can we at long last admit that the 2014 requirement is encouraging states to lower their standards?

Dan explains this better than I can, so I’ll just sit back an marvel at the cool graphics that the Heritage folks came up with, like the one above.

States Need Flexibility, Not a Bailout

October 31, 2008

(Guest Post by Dan Lips)

Following Wall Street and Detroit, the nation’s governors have joined the growing line on Capitol Hill—begging Congress to save their states from looming fiscal shortfalls. The National Governors Association sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking states to be included in the next economic stimulus package.

New York Governor David Patterson made the plea in person before the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday: “As part of a comprehensive second economic stimulus package, states need direct and immediate fiscal relief.”

But not all governors are looking for a federal handout. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford offered Chairman Rangel’s committee a different view—begging Congress not to give states more federal dollars. Instead, he called for greater freedom and flexibility from federal mandates.

In his testimony, Governor Sanford warned that a federal bailout would only fuel further out-of-control state government spending:

Essentially, you’d be transferring taxpayer dollars out of the frying pan – the federal government – and into the fire – the states themselves. I think this stimulus would exacerbate the clearly unsustainable spending trends of states, which has gone up 124 percent over the past 10 years versus federal government spending growth of 83 percent…

…State debt across the country has also increased by 95 percent over the past decade. In fact, on average every American citizen is on the hook for $1,200 more in state debt than we were 10 years ago. There seems to be no consequence, and indeed a reward, for unsustainable spending growth by states. In effect, sending $150 billion more to states would produce another layer of moral hazard – already laid bare at the corporate, individual and federal levels in recent years.

Rather than a bailout, Governor Sanford urged Congress to give state greater freedom and flexibility from government mandates and regulation:

Give us more flexibility. Give us more in the way of control over the dollars we already have and less in the way of costs. Give us more options, not more money with federal strings attached.

Among the costly mandates Governor Sanford referenced was No Child Left Behind. Designed to help improve learning opportunities for students, NCLB comes with a heavy compliance burden. According to the Office of Management and Budget, NCLB increased the annual paperwork required of state and local governments by 6,680,334 hours (or $141 million). That means it would take one person a miserable 762 years to complete just one-year worth of NCLB compliance!

The result of this red tape is that more dollars are consumed by the bureaucracy and less is actually available for use in the classroom.

There is a better approach. Governor Sanford and leaders in other states should call on Congress to adopt policies like the A-PLUS Acts, which would let states opt-out of No Child Left Behind and receive their share of funding in a block grant with less regulation. Doing this would give state and local leaders the freedom and flexibility to use scarce tax dollars on local initiatives to improve opportunities for disadvantaged children.

Giving states more flexibility in how federal funds are used makes more sense than another federal bailout.

Cross posted at The Foundry.

(Edited for typos)

Dan Lips Interviews the Chef

July 22, 2008

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Dan Lips interviews Jeb Bush about education reform on National Review Online today.

Leaving No Interest Group Behind

June 6, 2008

(Guest post by Dan Lips)

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed its first major K-12 education initiative for the 110th Congress: “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act,” (H.R. 3021) —  legislation authorizing a new $6.4 billion federal program for school construction and modernization. 

This is a great proposal…if you think that the biggest problem in American education is that public schools aren’t environmentally friendly enough. For anyone who thinks that federal power in education should be limited, or that states and localities are better positioned to decide how to allocate resources to improve school facilities, it earns an F. 

I have an op-ed on National Review Online today discussing the bill’s problems. In short, the bill is a regulatory gift bag to environmental groups and labor unions. 

The bill is unlikely to move in the Senate.  And if it passed, President Bush would probably veto it.  So Americans shouldn’t expect to see federally-mandated “green” public schools anytime soon.  But the House vote serves as a preview of where federal education policy could be headed.