Mr. Smith's Neighborhood

It's a beautiful day in the Neighborhood for teachers everywhere! Anything and everything is fair game!

Lewis Black, Bush and Education February 21, 2006

From The Washington Post (Thursday, February 9, 2006):

The new Bush Budget for 2007 "… creates a $100 million program to give private-school vouchers or expand tutoring for students who attend chronically poor-performing public schools."

On Saturday night, I had the pleasure to see Lewis Black for the third time in the past year. Some of you may know Mr. Black from the The Daily Show, his HBO specials or Conan O'Brien. If you enjoy a master story teller with a commanding stage presence, Lew is a must. I love him mostly because he and I are equally psychotic, but also because we are crazed by the insanity around us.

However, my adoration for Mr. Black and his Yale diploma aside, I was impressed with his astute observation about Mr. Bush's initiative for education. One hundred million big ones. But let's analyze that number a little more closely. It sounds like alot, right? But there are 50 states … they all have to share the money (we could try to mug Rhode Island and North Dakota for their share, but the incremental gain is negligible).

That means that each state gets exactly 2 million dollars. In 2003, New York State, my home state, had 2.9 million students. TWO MILLION DOLLARS IS LESS THAN AN AVERAGE OF ONE DOLLAR PER STUDENT IN AID! But wait! This is only for students who are in schools that can't get the job done. That's different, right?

Okay, maybe I am being a little too harsh. After all, at least 90% of the schools must be performing well so maybe only 10% of the students in our fair state will need the vouchers or the tutoring assistance. Let's see … that's about 287,000 children sharing 2 million dollars … THAT'S $6.97 PER CHILD! WHAT! ARE THEY KIDDING!

Let's take one last try … let's be extremely optimistic and assume that 98% of the students are not in need because their schools are meeting performance standards. That means that only 57,300 children are in need of aid. It's good to be an optimist, don't you agree? GOOD NEWS … THEY GET A WHOPPING $34.90 EACH … THAT'S A WHOLE HALF HOUR OF TUTORING! The school uniform at a private school costs at least four times that amount.

Even if you are a delusional psychotic and believe that your student population is only 25% of New York State's and only 2% of your students are at risk, those children still only get $139.60 each. I suppose someone could make a case that I am being a highly negative pessimist about our leadership. I disagree. I am a teacher. I have learned to teach an insane curriculum created by politicians and lobbyists who haven't seen a human child in 15 years. The same politicians and lobbyists who devise federal aid to schools.

If a reasonable person were to assume that children were at risk due to poor schools, they would come up with a reasonable estimate of how many children would be affected across the U.S. (my second graders call this problem solving). One would then multiply the number of children by a reasonable dollar amount to guarantee that child would be given the tutoring or schooling they needed. What bureaucrat counting on his fingers and toes came up with federal aid between $34.90 and $139.60 per child?

You don't believe this? I don't blame you. Rod Serling couldn't have made this up for an episode on The Twilight Zone.

Let's conclude with a couple of other figures about the 2007 budget. The numbers are from the same Washington Post article cited above. In 2007, the Department of Defense will have their spending cut by 8.7% for a total spending package of $491.3 billion. The Department of Agriculture will have a .2% INCREASE for a spending package of $96.4 billion.

The Department of Education will endure a cut of 28.5% for a spending package of $63.4 billion. Share those numbers with your friends and colleagues who wonder where education is headed. The politicians keep trying to tell us, but not enough of us are hearing it.

Thanks Lewis … get some more people fired up.

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4 Responses to “Lewis Black, Bush and Education”

  1. Laurel Says:

    Hi Vern, my message just disappeared. That is very strange. Any way the whole idea of spending more and more just to fuel, or extend a sand-box dispute is just nonsense to me. Do you remember any playground bullies from the not-too-distant past? Well, as long as there is not a padlock, lead-casing, and constantine wire around the federal reserve the inappropriate behavior on the part of the “leadership” in this country will continue. And I use that term loosely to say the least. I am glad to see that you really care about these issues. Are others in your neighborhood sensing the inherent danger? I have a tendency to voice my opinion often to the government reps here.

  2. bluboo Says:

    Sorry about the cyber erasure. It wasn’t me. I only edit and delete comments by my fiancee. Don’t tell her. 🙂

    I have a dear friend in California that I have known since 7th Grade (much to his dismay, I refuse to disappear … LOL!). He has watched as NAFTA and the movie studios shipped all the work he did to Canada, Mexico and Korea. The man has won two Emmy awards and cannot make a living.

    Americans will be complacent about things as long as they have all the distractions: the SUV, hi-speed internet, cell phones, cable TV and the Sony PlayStation. Meanwhile, our education system is being destroyed, our environment trashed and our jobs reduced to part-time or low-income traps. America is too lazy to fight against the bureaucrats, politicians and corporate warlords that are capitalizing upon the lives and work of the little people.

    Someday, people will understand what Peter Finch really meant in “Network” when he said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Look at the numbers … $491 billion for defense and $63 billion for education. Who’s running this country?

  3. Antibush Says:

    Bush and the Republicans were not protecting us on 9-11, and we aren’t a lot safer now. We may be more afraid due to george bush, but are we safer? Being fearful does not necessarily make one safer. Fear can cause people to hide and cower. What do you think? How does that work in a democracy again? How does being more threatening make us more likeable?Isn’t the country with
    the most weapons the biggest threat to the rest of the world? When one country is the biggest threat to the rest of the world, isn’t that likely to be the most hated country?
    If ever there was ever a time in our nation’s history that called for a change, this is it!
    The more people that the government puts in jails, the safer we are told to think we are. The real terrorists are wherever they are, but they aren’t living in a country with bars on the windows. We are.

  4. Fuzu Says:

    Ooh gosh i just typed a long comment and when i hit post it come up blank! Please please tell me it worked right? I do not want to sumit it again if i do not have to! Either the blog glitced out or i am an idiot, the second option doesnt surprise me lol.


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