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.