When schools shut down this spring, Congress sent them $31 billion — nearly half its annual schools outlay — for sanitation and online learning, even though students weren’t in schools to theoretically contaminate them and online learning barely happened for millions of children. The vast majority of this money has not even reached schools yet.
Nevertheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that education special interests are demanding, through their Democrat representatives, nearly half a trillion in additional deficit spending for the fall without requiring schools to operate. Yes, you read that right: Democrats want nearly $430 billion extra to put kids in the equivalent of Khan Academy online math lessons. Did I mention that Khan Academy is free? And that the ask to duplicate it is 600 percent more than annual federal spending on K-12?
“There is absolutely no way that federal funds included in the next COVID relief package…will reach schools in time to open in August and September,” notes Inez Feltscher. “Due to bureaucratic inertia and the requisite multiple rounds of paperwork, new federal COVID-response funds are unlikely to reach schools before 2021.”
Even though schools haven’t spent a fraction of their existing coronavirus loot, Republicans are also on board with larding on more. They merely want to inflate federal K-12 spending by 150 percent, $105 billion. In case you were concerned that Congress isn’t spending the next generation’s money fast enough while neglecting to ensure schools prepare the nation’s young to gratefully contribute to their country, WSJ reports neither side will even require schools to operate to have their federal funds increased by several magnitudes:
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Democrats said they would strongly oppose any attempts by Republicans to make the education funding contingent on schools reopening, as the administration has proposed.
‘As a mom and a grandmother, the thought of using student safety as a bargaining chip is truly appalling,’ Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of Senate Democratic leadership, told reporters Tuesday. ‘Families don’t need the federal government telling them to ignore their health or ignore public safety…because the president wants to somehow wish this virus away.’
…Administration officials have sought to condition money for schools on their plans for reopening, another push that some Republicans oppose.
‘I think schools at all levels have been impacted by what happened and so I think a lot of that support needs to not be conditioned,’ [Missouri Republican Sen. Roy] Blunt said.
If Congress can’t stop itself from setting skyscrapers of future generations’ money on fire, the least they can do is give it to parents instead of schools that are bad at education and good at leftist proselytizing. Parents are scrambling to find any education situation for their children that makes more sense than haphazard worksheets and YouTube videos from public schools that spend an average of $17,000 per child per year and now want even more without even having to open for business like grocery stores and hospitals.
Special interest demands for gobs of money and other special conditions for schools to pretend to do their jobs this fall is transparently disconnected from any public health concern. Los Angeles teachers unions, for example, demanded a ban on charter schools and police defunding before they would open (before California Gov. Gavin Newsom effectively capitulated by banning schools from operating in most of the state this fall). Other unions are demanding bans on having teachers offer any kind of personalized instruction to children via Zoom.
These demands have nothing to do with even pretending to educate kids safely. It’s blatant political hostage-taking. And every parent can easily see that.
Shifting money from the education blob to individual families is the obvious solution to coronavirus concerns. It would allow all families, not just those rich enough for the Washington Post to profile, to hire teachers and tutors to custom design a small-scale education for their kids.
This means the right could be on the cusp of accidentally achieving a major half-century goal of returning education from bureaucracy to parents. If Democrats were in charge, they would be exploiting this crisis to the hilt. They’re not even technically in charge of Congress, and they’re still doing that. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to focus on doing what Democrats want, just a little bit slower and a little bit cheaper.
But people don’t vote for Republicans to be the more cowardly Democrats. They vote for Republicans for a competing view of the common good.
It’s an indictment of Republican leadership that President Trump, who like most businessmen knows nearly nothing about education, still has better political instincts on this. He might not get that American education is about self government, not mere money acquisition, but he does get that parents across the political spectrum know their kids’ schooling can’t sustain another huge disruption. He’s on their side. Republicans should be too.
If Congress screws this up, like it usually does, states need to lead during this emergency by immediately converting their systems to education savings accounts. This will allow every parent to bypass the bureaucracy holding them hostage and secure the personal attention their kids need.