There’s an old joke about a drunk man, stumbling about under a streetlamp looking for a dropped set of keys. When a helpful passerby asks if that’s where he dropped them, the drunk replies, “No, but the light’s better over here.” It’s hard not to feel that government bureaucrats take a similar approach to tackling the problem of education. They throw money at the problem, not because that’s what works, but because that’s what they know how to do.
A recent report from the Department of Education concluded that, after $7 billion of new federal spending since the end of the Bush administration, student outcomes haven’t improved at all. No Child Left Behind, Head Start, Race to the Top, Common Core, all the ridiculous federal initiatives we were told needed to be imposed on us “for the children” have amount to a big fat pile of nothing.
And we’re $7 billion poorer for it.
This report is not an outlier or an anomaly. Previous research has concluded the same thing. A study from the Cato Institute found that 40 years of increased education spending hasn’t resulted in positive changes in student performance. The Head Start program, in its own self-evaluation, concluded that any benefits conferred by the program on early childhood performance disappear over time.
So what are we to conclude after pouring billions of dollars into education and getting nothing in return? We know what the Democrats’ answer will be. It’s the same as ever. It’s not that spending doesn’t work, it’s that we haven’t spent enough. Never mind that the U.S. already has the highest per-student spending of almost any country in the world. Only an endless flow of cash can make our children smarter.
Or, we could take a more rational approach, realize that what we’re doing isn’t working, and try something else. Only a fool throws good money after bad. Only a mad man does the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Instead of continuing to tax the people to pay for a bloated Department of Education that doesn’t, and can’t deliver on its promises, we should close down the entire failed institution. Maybe we should let states, localities, and parents decide how to educate their children free from the influence of federal meddling.
Democrats make a big show of being practical, empirical, science-based, and doing what works. How many more studies will it take to convince them that the Department of Education has failed our children long enough?
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Logan Albright is a researcher for Conservative Review and Director of Research for Free the People. You can follow him on Twitter @loganalbright73.