Obama Is Full of…Education Dollars


Barack thinks about reform. Michelle thinks about lump sum payments.

In a speech yesterday in Northern Virginia, President Obama said this:

So what we've said is we're going to put more money into higher education and through K-12—but here's the catch—the money is only going to those communities that are serious about reforming their education system so they work well.  Because it's—education is not just a matter of putting more money into it. You also have to make sure that we've got the best teachers, that we've got accountability, that the way we're designing our schools help our kids actually succeed over the long term, especially in areas of math and science, where we're lagging even further behind than we were a generation ago.

Sounds good! Except for the part where it's a bunch of hooey.

The president is probably referring to the Race to the Top program here. It's not a bad program. It's a pot of money that is being carefully, slowly dispersed to states that submit detailed specs on their plans for education reform. Most of the awards are measured in tens or hundreds of millions. The program is slated to distribute $4.35 billion, and the mere existence of some money tied to reform has spurred some modest changes. Nothing huge, mind you. But to position themselves to compete for the money, several states have relaxed caps on the number of allowable charter schools, for instance. He might also be thinking of the $400 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which is designed to increase pay for successful teachers.

However, those figures are dwarfed by the no-strings-attached, status-quo-preserving pallets for federal dollars that the feds have gotten into the habit of periodically airlifting to the states. Just to cite the most recent example, last month Congress passed a bill that includes $10 billion to preserve teachers' jobs.

For every carefully considered dollar distributed to encourage reform, the feds undermined that message in a single stroke last month with two bucks that signal to states that they should hang in there, keep doing what they're doing, and whatever happens don't take the occasion of a budget crunch to rethink the way money is spent on education in this country. And that's just the latest in a serious of ed money infusions, including a massive chunk of the stimulus cash, which have recently gone to teacher job preservation and other measures to prop up state education budgets. (Of course, last month's $10 billion was an additional appropriation, thrown out on top of the usual tens of billions in federal K-12 education spending which remains largely untethered to reforms of any kind.)

The Reason Foundation's Lisa Snell wrote all about the repeated triumph of the status quo in our May issue.

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  1. It’s a really annoying habit of Obama’s to say things that seem reasonable and then totally ignore any logic he could have used to get there and act completely to the contrary.

  2. You know, I was reading an article about how I could buy a rapid charger for my electric car for $3,200, with about half of that covered by federal tax credits. Since the administration is also pouring money down the educational bonfire, why not also make it a technological incentive by spending billions on robot teachers?

    1. I don’t, incidentally, own an electric car.

      1. Ah, you wanna get one of those chargers to power your can crusher or rail/coil gun, right?

        1. No, his dildo.

          1. Dildo, rail gun; tomato, tamahtoe.

        2. Space elevator.

    2. They’d rather go with Hybrid teachers. The kind with 400lbs of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries in the trunk.

  3. It’s not a bad program.

    Have standards really fallen this low in the Land of Free Minds and Free Markets?

    1. It’s not bad compared to, say, enlisting all the kids into the military, or sending them off to work in a sweatshop. Or just shooting them and tossing their bodies into a pit.

      Yes, standards really have fallen that far.

      1. Good point. I guess we live in a target-rich environment of bad laws.

  4. I wonder if Obama lit up a cig as Michelle was lecturing the kids about their food choices.

  5. In that picture he looks like he’d rather have a rectal exam performed by Dr. Hook. Michelle looks like she found out she doesn’t have to get one.

    1. The expressions make more sense if you imagine Michelle is standing in a JCPenny changing room, while Barack is sitting outside waiting.

    2. They’re demonstrating “the wave.”

  6. That photo is racist.

  7. Whats funny is that the rules for calculating how much schools get paid per pupil are specifically set up to give schools where students are sucessful less than schools where they aren’t. My childrens school district receives about 75% of what the surrounding schools districts receive per pupil.

  8. “C’mon, kids, you remember what a gibbon monkey is, they’re the ones that go like this!”

      1. I’ll give Slut a pass on this one.

  9. If they are going to reform the primary and secondary school system, how about taking away all of the stupid requirements for being hired as a teacher. I know that some restrictions are at the state level, but I’m a degreed engineer who could teach the hell out of math, especially algebra/geometry/proofs. But if I wanted to become a high school math teach I would have to go back to school for 2 years and take the state certification test. If you want to become a substitute teacher, however, you just have to pass a background check and answer a phone. I’d be happy being able to prove my proficiency to my employer as opposed to jumping through hoops that serve no purpose but showing that I can jump through hoops.

    1. jumping through hoops that serve no purpose but showing that I can jump through hoops.

      That was pretty much my entire experience of school, as a student. Why should it be any different for the teachers?

    2. jumping through hoops that serve no purpose but showing that I can jump through hoops

      Isn’t that kind of the point? They need pliant teachers to create pliant citizens.

      1. Tell me about it.

    3. I’d be happy being able to prove my proficiency to my employer as opposed to jumping through hoops that serve no purpose but showing that I can jump through hoops.

      It’s a Union gig. They can’t just let anyone in.

  10. “but here’s the catch?the money is only going to those communities that are serious about reforming their education system so they work well.”

    And this time, we mean it. Honestly.

    1. As a follow up to your snark, if they really meant it they’d have awarded funds to Louisiana in round 2 instead of New York.

      However, Louisiana is spending money on vouchers and understandably didn’t have teacher union support for their application. Meanwhile, New York Department of Ed preserves a cadre of non-working, highly paid Democratic voters.

      1. In fairness to New York, they have managed to devise an extremely expensive yet also somewhat effective method for keeping lousy teachers away from students. Not bad for government work.

  11. Haven’t Presidents learned their lesson about reading to school kids yet?

    1. In September no less. Fuck, Obama, tempt fate much?

    2. “The Pet Goat”

  12. Don’t end it, mend it!

  13. Every time you see a picture of Her Highness, you have to know that no matter how un-lovely or silly the picture makes her look, that was the BEST of the pictures taken of her since the media is in the tank for her & his obamaness.

  14. I predict we’ll hear more of this great riff: We’re going to put more money into [insert name of project/rathole] ? but here’s the catch ? the money is only going to those [insert type of potential recipient] that are serious.

  15. You also have to make sure that we’ve got the best teachers,

    The union wants to make sure they bad teachers stay employed. Bad teacher’s union dues are the same as good teacher’s union dues. The unions are there to protect the teachers, not the students.

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