Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Education Spending Won't Create Jobs

Education Spending Won't Create Jobs
By Phyllis Schlafly

Contrary to President Obama's political rhetoric, more taxpayer spending to send more students to college will not reduce unemployment or improve the economy. It's just Obama's way of finagling the unemployment statistics by listing young people as students instead of as unemployed.

A report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland confirmed that when it comes to long-term unemployment, the length of unemployment is unrelated to education level. Although employment is higher for people with more years of education, the duration of unemployment is the same for all education levels.

A new phrase is now commonly included in job ads for all kinds of positions: "must be currently employed." Charts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show remarkably parallel lines for the duration of unemployment of Americans age 25 and older who have less than a high school diploma, only a high school diploma, some college or a college degree.

The Obama administration continues to propagate the falsehood that solving the unemployment problem requires "more investments in education." Investment is a favorite liberal code word for more spending and higher taxes.

As globalization spread and was touted by the elites as the wave of the future, conventional wisdom was that only blue-collar manufacturing jobs would be sent overseas, while college grads were safe. That assumption is now obsolete, as computers and telecommunications have made it possible to offshore the jobs of college-educated employees.

I thought it was a tossup as to which was the greatest education scandal: the $2 trillion taxpayers poured into public schools that failed the twin goals of improving student achievement and closing the gap between higher-income and lower-income students OR the colossal debt students accumulate to pay exorbitant college tuition prices. But the Chronicle of Higher Education reported a third scandal under the headline, "The Great College-Degree Scam."

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) found that approximately 60 percent of the increase in the number of college graduates from 1992 to 2008 now work in relatively low-skilled jobs that need only a high school diploma or less. The actual count is 17.4 million college grads working in occupations that the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as not requiring college, such as cashier, waiter, waitress or bartender.

Facts do not deter the Obama administration from playing the false tune that more federal education spending is the key to more jobs. White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes reprised this myth with a stream of buzzwords: Education is the "key to winning the future," we need to "improve educational outcomes" so we can "win in the global marketplace," and we must "out-educate the world" and put "greater emphasis on critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving," and grab "our generation's 'Sputnik moment.'"

Vice President Joe Biden joined in this campaign by launching his "College Completion Tool Kit" -- a bunch of expensive suggestions to increase the number of college graduates by 50 percent. He wants to shift the focus from high school completion to college completion and, of course, do more to subsidize the latter.

Biden was the lead speaker at "The First Annual Building a Grad Nation Summit" held in Washington in March, to be followed by a similar summit held by each governor. The plan sets forth vague goals such as developing an action plan, using data to drive decision-making, accelerating learning and re-labeling "remedial" courses in college as "developmental."

Of course, Biden's plan calls for extravagant taxpayer handouts such as the First in the World initiative to support "innovative practices" and College Completion Incentive Grants to reward states for undertaking "reforms." That's on top of money already committed by the Obama administration, such as $40 billion more in Pell grants, a 90 percent increase in tax incentives through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, making it easier for students to get grants and loans, and forgiving the college debt of students who promise 10 years of public service.

Why should taxpayers be forced to continue unaffordable deficit spending to send more kids to college when the evidence shows that our economy is not offering enough jobs for college graduates now?

The biggest issue today is the need to rebuild an economy that offers the three-fourths of Americans without a college degree jobs that pay enough to buy a home and support a wife raising their own children. Somehow we lost that kind of a society through a combination of feminism, unilateral divorce, illegal and legal immigration, and the steady drumbeat of free-trade elitists telling us that globalism makes it our duty to compete with foreigners willing to work for as little as 30 cents an hour with no benefits.

The party that has the best solution to the jobs issue will win in 2012. More years of taxpayer-funded schooling are not the answer.

Education Spending Has a Simple Solution
By Phyllis Schlafly

As the new Republican House majority wrestles with ways to cut our unsustainable budget deficit, Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet. On March 14, he said, "We cannot cut education."

But why not? If we are going to cut programs that are proven to have failed to achieve their goals, federal spending on education should be at the top of the list.

Federal spending on public schools (which is only a small percentage of their school budgets) was given specific goals in the 2002 law called "No Child Left Behind," the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It required states to set targets to have all students proficient in reading and math by 2014, to meet an annual benchmark of progress toward this goal and in particular to demonstrate a closing or narrowing of the gap between higher-income and minority students.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw a cannonball into the education debate this month by admitting that 82 percent of public schools could be labeled "failing" under No Child Left Behind specifications. His solution is to stop calling them "failing," extend the target date for student proficiency to 2020 and, of course, to appropriate more money to failed programs.

For years, education spokesmen have opined that kids should be able to read by the fourth grade. Good for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is now calling for the reading goal to be third grade -- and this goal is also being advocated by the Indiana and New Mexico governors.

Obama wants to put more money into the notoriously useless program called Head Start, and he increased its annual funding in 2009 by nearly $3 billion. U.S. taxpayers have given Head Start $166 billion of taxpayers' money since 1965 despite many studies proving that it was mostly wasted, did not give poor kids a head start and any gains made while kids were in Head Start disappeared within a couple of years.

Since conservatives famously lost the battle to prevent federal spending on local public schools (which they view as unconstitutional) a half century ago, Congress has year after year increased appropriations. In recent years, Congress identified two primary purposes: to raise student achievement and to narrow the gap between high- and low-income students and between minority and white students.

We the federal taxpayers have spent roughly $2 trillion on these efforts since 1965. It's reasonable to ask, did we get our money's worth?

If we look at the class that graduated from the public schools in 2009, we find that we spent over $151,000 per student to bring him from the first to the 12th grade. That's nearly three times as much as we spent on the graduating class of 1970.

Despite that massive spending, overall achievement has stagnated or declined. The gaps between minority and white students are unchanged in science and only slightly narrowed in reading and math.

We have precious little to show for the $2 trillion in federal education spending over the past half-century, and Andrew J. Coulson of CATO has the charts to prove it. It now costs three times as much to provide essentially the same education as we provided in 1970.

Even this bad news fails to give the big picture because, as productivity was falling in public schools, it was rising everywhere else. Nearly all the products and services most of us buy have gotten better, more affordable or both over the past two generations.

The fact that there is no education improvement even while spending has skyrocketed is a disaster unparalleled in any other field. In addition to the waste, this gigantic spending slowed our economic growth by taxing trillions of dollars out of the productive sector of the economy and squandering it on worthless programs.

Knowing that learning to read is fundamental to education, the public-school lobby is yelping about proposed cuts in grants for literacy programs. Yes, literacy should be job number one, but after all these years why do we have to go to the unnecessary expense of passing out money to find a good reading program?

Children should be taught to read in the first grade by an authentic phonics system in which they learn the sounds and syllables of the English language and how to put them together to read words of more than one syllable. There is nothing expensive or mysterious about this basic task.

Instead of wasting more federal money on grant-writers and grant-readers, tell local districts to award a bonus to first-grade teachers based on how many kids they actually teach to read. Let the teacher select the phonics system she thinks will help her win the bonus.

To read another article by Phyllis Schlafly, click here.

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