Tuesday, July 12, 2016

FAILURE By Vicki E. Alger

 New Book Gives U.S. Department of Education a Failing Grade

Education, being one of the top issues debated by the presidential candidates, is very much on the minds of all Americans.  Trump advocates for school choice, refers to common core as a "disaster," and is calling for an end to the Department of Education. Clinton wants to socialize students and believes that it takes a village to raise a kid. In an important new book, education reform expert Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D., author of FAILURE: The Federal Misedukation of America's Children, shows us what the problems are and offers sound strategies toward improving on the failures of America's educational system.

In FAILURE, you'll learn that for nearly 100 years the federal government left education almost entirely in the hands of state and local governments. Gradually, however, federal restraint gave way, culminating in 1979 with the creation of the U.S. Department of Education - a sprawling bureaucracy with more than 4,000 employees, 100 programs, and an annual budget of approximately $70 billion. What caused this dramatic transformation? Has it improved student performance? And how can we best ensure that America's schoolchildren will get the education they need for thriving in an increasingly technological, competitive global economy?

When President Jimmy Carter established the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in 1979 as the thirteenth cabinet-level agency, the advocates of a larger role for the federal government in education hailed it as a hard-won victory for America's taxpayers, educators and school children. But thirty-six years later, ED has yet to live up to the promises, which tells us:

  • It has failed to act as a genuine partner to state and local governments, but instead lords over them. Strings attached to federal funding have created an ongoing tug-of-war between the feds and the states.
  • It has failed to ensure that federal dollars are spent efficiently. Programs remain spread across multiple departments, perpetuating redundancy and waste of taxpayer dollars.
  • It has failed to appreciably improve student academic performance. International assessments reveal that 17-year-olds as a group are only slightly better in math than they were in 1978, and their reading ability has remained flat since 1971.
  • ED has failed to reach every meaningful goal its advocates had promised.

After providing a history and assessment of federal involvement of education (including a comparison with top-performing education systems worldwide), FAILURE offers a way forward. Dr. Alger's steps include:

  • Immediately eliminating 19 non-program offices and divisions within the Department of Education, and returning the $14 billion in savings to taxpayers via a tax credit;
  • Letting the American people work with local lawmakers and educators to set priorities that meet the specific needs of students in their communities;
  • Empowering citizens to create parental choice programs in the states - including  tuition tax credits and educational savings accounts; and
  • Abolishing ED and returning the federal government to its constitutional role in education (none).

Federal involvement in education, FAILURE shows, has been an epic failure - a failure of ineffective educational programs, a failure with massive wasteful spending, and a failure of the Department of Education to be a partner with state and local governments. Fortunately, Dr. Alger's rigorous assessment enables her to identify and articulate the best strategy for success - namely, decentralizing education policy by ending federal involvement, returning power to state and local governments, and implementing parental choice. [more...]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D., is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and the author of more than forty education policy studies. She has provided expert affidavits for the successful legal defense of educational choice programs for low-income, foster-care and disabled children. Her work was also used in the successful legal defense of tax-credit scholarship programs in the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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