I read this story over the weekend and was a bit dumbfounded by it. Education was once governed in America at the local level, with locally elected school boards making decisions about curriculum, calendars, and content related to education. Now, President Obama has proclaimed that school days should be longer, and the school year should be extended to “level the playing field.”
Leveling the playing field has such a nice ring to it, but why must we constantly seek to be like everyone else? And, why must all school districts in America seek to be like other schools around the world which President Obama likes? In fact, what does the federal government have to do with local school districts?
As it turns out, the federal government has quite a lot to do with local schools. Here is the paragraph of U. S. Department of Education which will remind us of exactly what the federal government has to do with local government:
ED currently administers a budget of $62.6 billion in regular FY 2009 discretionary appropriations and $96.8 billion in discretionary funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—and operates programs that touch on every area and level of education. The Department’s elementary and secondary programs annually serve nearly 14,000 school districts and approximately 56 million students attending some 98,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools. Department programs also provide grant, loan, and work-study assistance to more than 13 million postsecondary students.
Notice the 2009 addition from the “stimulus” bill. These numbers are a staggering example of the bloated federal bereaucracy. This bloating has occurred under both republican and democratic administrations. Sadly, this kind of overreach in bereaucracy tends to encourage the concomitant overreach of the nation’s chief executive, although it must be said that this particular president displays a particular penchant for such oversteps. You might remember from months ago his assertion that he would use his office to encourage the NCAA to move to a playoff system for football. And, of course, there are also the examples of determining compensation for private firms, taking over auto manufacturing companies, and, now, seeking to mandate longer school days.
Instead of looking to government to improve education, I would prefer heading in the opposite direction and begin looking to parents and families and their local communities.