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Governments Spend Vast Amounts on Education

Do you get Value for Money?

Over a century ago, before the government got involved in the education of our children, most people (some put it as high as ninety percent) could read and write fluently. Nowadays, after a dozen or so years of government-run education, people observe that many graduates can not read and write fluently.

In Canada, many years ago, there was a report published on the deficiencies of the education system. At the University of Toronto, more than half first year students were found to need remedial English lessons.

These students were the cream of the crop, not average high school graduates. They were good enough to get into one of Canada's most prestigious universities, yet they could not read or write fluently.

1. What's Up with the Educational System?

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That report from years ago doesn't seem to be online but, according to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 30 percent of all incoming first-year students require remedial education in reading, writing, or mathematics.
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The US Dept. of Education reports that 79% of Chicago 8th graders are not proficient in reading.

Such results suggest that, a hundred years ago, the free-market education system was doing a far, far better job than the government-run system of today. Yet the government got involved. Why? Was it really because, as was claimed, they wanted to extend the benefits of a good education to that last disadvantaged ten percent?

Or could there be some other reason? Government education only teaches WHAT to think, rather than HOW to think nowadays, see more here. It seems they don't like disagreement with their policies. In fact, the innocent protesting students massacred at Kent State University in 1970 are a resounding testament to the dangers of disagreeing against US government policies.

Much of the population don't know how to think for themselves. They just believe what seems plausible and then, being unable to defend it rationally, they defend it emotionally instead. Could such disastrous results not have been foreseen?

2. Centralized Standards allow no Competition

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The one size fits all approach, an educational policy that centralizes standards maintaining that everyone should be taught a certain curriculum, loses the value of competition. The beauty of a system with different approaches is that you can compare the results, then the best - and the worst - become very visible.

Supposing the people deciding the one size fits all approach make a mistake, and choose badly? With a single curriculum, there's no room for different policies, different methodologies, different opinions. But it must be obvious even to the most doctrinaire zealot that children are very different, one size does not fit all. Every student in the country suffers.

A major improvement in the education system would come by simply getting the Federal Government out of education, allowing each State to decide its own policies. Mind you, the US Founding Fathers understood the wisdom of this approach, that's one of the reasons the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights reads:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

So the Federal Government are constitutionally prohibited from any involvement anyway.

3. Do Increases in Education Spending Make any Difference?

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Since the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, federal money have been poured into K-12 education, teacher training, educational research, and state-level school bureaucracies. How effective have the huge increases in federal education spending over the past forty years been?

Measured in constant dollars, students' educational achievements have remained more or less unchanged, despite similar huge increases in state and local education spending, finds a study by the respected, independent Cato institute.

The results of the continual increases in both federal and local funding in spending per pupil - in constant dollars - have had no effect. Reading scores, maths scores and science scores have flat-lined while federal, state, and local expenditures have soared. This gives the lie to the oft-repeated, but false teachers unions' allegation that education just needs more money. They been getting more money - lots more money - but student achievement hasn't budged.

4. The Federal Government Suppresses its own Embarrassing Findings

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The Federal Head Start program is often held up by liberals as a success. Yet the Federal "Head Start Impact Study: Executive Summary", the "Head Start: Final Report" and the "Head Start: Technical Report" just show the same brief executive summary. All these links on its own web-site [as of 2012/01] just thank the people involved while saying absolutely nothing about the findings.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted this scientifically rigorous study on the Head Start Program in 2008, yet the results are suppressed. Such censorship is natural behavior for a bureaucracy highly embarrassed by its own findings of complete government failure.

5. The Findings of the Government's Own Evaluation

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Fortunately, the Heritage foundation has kept a copy of the findings of the scientifically rigorous evaluation that tracked 5,000 three- and four-year-old children through third grade.
"For the four-year-old group, compared to similarly situated children not allowed access to Head Start, access to the program failed to raise the cognitive abilities of participants on 41 measures. Specifically, the language skills, literacy, math skills, and school performance of the participating children failed to improve."

"Alarmingly, access to Head Start for the three-year-old group actually had a harmful effect on the teacher-assessed math ability of these children once they entered kindergarten. Teachers reported that non-participating children were more prepared in math skills than those children who participated in Head Start."
Head Start also had little to no effect on the other socio-emotional, health, or parenting outcomes of children participating in the program. For the four-year-old group, access to Head Start failed to have an effect for 69 out of 71 socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes. For example, "Teachers reported that Head Start group children were more shy or socially reticent than the control group children."

6. Why Johnny Can't Read

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It's been frequently documented over many years, here at Forbes, that Johnny can't read:

"America is a nation of 40 million functioning illiterate adults; 40 million adults who cannot read and write above the 4th grade level.

"There's another 50 million or so that can read at the 4th grade level, but can't really comprehend, analyze, of dissect what they're reading."

It's unequivocally clear that Head Start does not work, according to the HHS third-grade follow-up evaluation above. The government's own report provides definitive evidence that the federal government's 48-year experiment with Head Start has failed. Yet the taxpayer, you, has picked up the tab of more than $180 billion.

Remember that you or your children pay the financial cost, despite the lack of benefit. Does Head Start look like a program on which you want to waste billions of dollars each year?

Former President Obama pledged to use just one test when determining which education programs to continue: "It's not whether an idea is liberal or conservative," Obama stated, "but whether it works." But he didn’t follow through.

7. Government Failure

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The money as well as the man-power spent on the Federal K-12 program, as well as Head Start, means that the private sector has had neither that money nor that man-power to do anything productive. It's been wasted by the government rather than adding to economic growth.

Once again, government involvement is equated, by the government's own study, with government failure.
There are far too many reasons for viewing government education as a form of child-abuse, see Dan Mitchell's blog at:

A fascinating report proves that lower educational expenditures do NOT equate to lower educational results, despite the mendacious self-serving claims of school-spending advocates who decry schools as underfunded:

Food for Thought

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"We've gone from teaching Latin and Greek in middle and high school to teaching remedial English in our universities."

- Bill Saunders

"The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality."

- H.L. Mencken, 1880-1956, American journalist, the "Sage of Baltimore," editor, satirist, critic and scholar

"Nearly 70% of employers blamed inadequate training for the shortfall in skilled workers, yet 70% of education-providers believe they suitably prepare graduates for the jobs market.

"Similarly, employers complain that less than half of the young whom they hire have adequate problem-solving skills, yet nearly two-thirds of the young believe that they do have such skills.

"The situation is such that nearly 60% of young people around the world say they would pay more for an education that would improve the likelihood of securing an attractive job; and 70% of employers say they would pay more for the right talent, if only they could find it."

- Dominic Barton, MD of McKinsey & Co, see:

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