Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Nebraskans, take note: most of the proposals now circulating in the Legislature and elsewhere around the state for reforming K-12 education are demonstrably counter-productive. “Free” school-based preschool? “Free” all-day kindergarten? “Free” social services in schools? More governance, in the form of a soon-to-be-statewide Learning Community and centralized Educational Service Units? These, and more, are all doomed to fail – because “more, more, more” isn’t the answer. And the facts prove it.

Here’s just one: did you know the average Nebraska school was spending $2,471.62 per pupil in the 1981-82 school year, but that rose to $8,012.96 per pupil in 2004-05? That’s according to the Nebraska Department of Education,
http://ess.nde.state.ne.us. That’s a spending increase of 325% in 23 years. Has quality increased by anywhere near that level? Or has it declined? Based on the reading, writing and arithmetic skills of people in their teens, 20s and 30s, observers would have to say the latter.

But the more we slip into the nationalization of our schools through accepting federal funding and being forced to do school the feds’ way, the more expensive schooling is becoming, and the less effective it is.

Federal funding is what brought us Goals 2000, School to Work, No Child Left Behind and now our significantly dumbed-down learning standards that are boilerplated with almost every other state in the Union.

Federal funding is why most of our public schools use boneheaded reading and math curriculum instead of what works – because federal funding backs the stuff that DOESN’T.

Federal funding is what is tying our school administrators’ hands on so many counter-productive policies, maintaining the outrageous racial achievement gap despite our best intentions to close it, and invading everybody’s privacy on a regular basis with federally-mandated data collection on students – including those in private schools and homeschools -- down to the microrecord level.

Ironically, although it is federally-funded testing that is demonstrating the shortcomings in our educational system – NAEP, the National Assessment of Education Progress -- it is federal funding that Nebraska schools need to escape if we have any hope of doing a better job for our kids.

Spending more money, starting more kids in organized schooling at earlier ages, hiring more people to work in schools, crafting more standards, employing more people to regulate and enforce those standards, training more educators how to carry out more programs, spending more time and money on technology and record-keeping to keep track of it all, and making kids devote longer hours in school each day and give up more and more weeks of vacation each year, all wind up costing taxpayers MORE money, and equipping students LESS well to join the ranks of the grown-up world.

AA-OO-GAH! Listen up!

A New York Times article last week exposed the truth about the push by teachers’ unions and educrats to get more funding for schools, more years of schooling for each child, and more hours in school, using National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores for 12th graders in 2005. Those scores are going downhill despite spending increases in real dollars of over 20% in the last decade alone. The average high-school senior in 2005 had 360 more hours of instruction than the average senior in 1990. Yet the percentage of seniors whose reading was deemed “proficient” has dropped to 35%, from 40%, since 1992. And of the 2005 seniors tested, 39% lacked even basic high school math skills.


You can read more about the national results, although they don’t break out Nebraska’s at the 12th grade level here, on:


What are we to do?

Well, here’s just one suggestion:

We ought to withdraw NOW from federal funding. According to the audited financial reports of Nebraska school districts on the state’s website,
http://ess.nde.state.ne.us, federal dollars supplied 8.9% of what it took to run Nebraska’s schools last year -- $224 million of the total of $2.5 billion.

Yes, it would hurt to do without that $224 million.

But oh, what our kids would gain. Let’s do it for them. For our businesses and farms. For our future.

We could dooooooo this, Nebraskans.


Oh, I couldn't agree more. I wish somehow that in opting out of federal funding, we could also stop handing over our tax dollars to the federal government.

Somehow, I think we'd be better off to give it directly to NE than funnel it through the USDOE, but that is just me.

Or even better off keeping it in our own accounts in order to care for our little dependents.
I don't think it's even legal to have the federal government involved in education in the first place. According to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, anything that's not specified in the Constitution as being the job of the federal government is supposed to remain in the local government bailiwick. The intention is to drive down decision-making power as close to the voters as possible, wherever applicable. The exact opposite has happened with K-12 education, and it shows.

The state government should do some broad-brush stuff, but most of the decision-making power should remain with the locally-elected school boards.

The way it looks today, with all these mandates that have come down from Washington, from NCLB to special ed and on down the line, school boards are basically pointless. They know it, too, and are relegated to arguing about the location of the potties in the new sports complex -- seriously; that was the controversy at our district's last school-board meeting.

That's really the whole problem. Withdrawing from the federal "teat" would restore their purpose and autonomy, and not only force them, but allow them, to be accountable to the local voters, and I'd be all for that.
Definitely. Education is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution.

Even Washington and Madison proposed selling government lands to raise money for a national university and it was shot down in Congress on constitutional grounds. They just didn't have the authority.
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